Wednesday, 16 September 2015 16:49

Criminal Justice program underway at Medicine Hat College

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Jackson Goodfellow Jackson Goodfellow

Jim Groom, co-ordinator of the newly-created criminal justice program at the Medicine Hat College, had a lot of reasons to smile in early September.

The former police and security program had undergone some changes that were more than just cosmetic.
A new, well-thought out and planned curriculum, an impressive array of instructors and a large enrolment of students has Groom smiling.
“It’s gone quite smooth, larger numbers than ever,” explains Groom who notes enrolment increased almost 30 per cent compared to the 2014-2015 school year. He adds there was a lot of shuffling in order to fit everyone into class that first day.
Groom says the former police and security program needed an overhaul. Changes were in the works a few years ago.
“We started (talking) about three years ago,” recalls Groom in regards to college administration. “‘What are our core needs? What courses do we need to amend, discard and alter?’ It was just in (the) evolutionary stage and then we we got in consultations itself and looked through the (previous police and security program) pretty thoroughly. The name change was symbolic ... we gave some thought to it and symbolically it was important to give the newly-restructured program a new identity.”
There were discussions and consultations with external sources who are well -versed in the industry.
Groom says this included Dr. Curtis Clark, the current Alberta deputy minister of justice, who in discussions helped formulate some new programs.
“He spent time here, made specific recommendations and they were all incorporated,” says Groom.
The goal was for the program was to be challenging, useful and university-transferable.  According to the MHCwebsite, a four-year Bachelor of Professional Arts (BPA) program is offered by Athabasca University at MHC and is available to those that have completed MHC’s Criminal Justice Diploma program or an Athabasca University-approved two-year criminal justice diploma from a recognized post-secondary institution. Typically, the diploma counts as credit for the first two years of the degree, and you complete the BPA in an additional two years.

“We didn’t want a high attrition rate — that’s counter intuitive,” adds Groom, noting the cut off for students was 60.
Swift Current’s Jackson Goodfellow, 18, couldn’t wait to get started at Medicine Hat College earlier this month. He is one of  the many students which started the year off in the criminal justice program.
Goodfellow had done his homework when it came to investigating which school he wanted to attend. Since he was four years old, he wanted to get into law enforcement. He liked what he saw with what was being offered in Medicine Hat.
His wants to het the academic and base theory down, before the more physical training of a law enforcement or RCMP program. For the latter, candidates have to be at least 19 years old.
“(Medicine Hat) is a well-rounded criminology program with forensics,” explains Goodfellow who says he hadn’t spent a lot of time in Medicine Hat previously, but liked the fact Medicine Hat is a smaller school, a smaller centre, and more of a tight-knit environment.
“I’ll know whether or not I’m ready for this ... academically I’ll grow the most and I’ll see gains in that area.”
Goodfellow was also impressed with the quality of instructors the Medicine Hat College has brought in; Groom concurs.
“We have a good group here,” says Groom noting there is a lot of expertise, experience and local knowledge which will all contribute to a well-rounded education for students.
Criminology instructors include Michelle Smith, a former staff sergeant with the RCMP in Ottawa who Groom says is the “gold standard.” She has experience in policing in both urban and remote rural areas; supervised young recruits; helped develop online criminology courses and has a masters specializing in criminology studies.
Also instructing is Ron Robinson, an emergency planner with the City of Medicine Hat, as well as a former fire chief. He was “heavily part of the integration of regional emergency services” for southeast Alberta.
Robinson has also taught courses and Groom points out “he’s done it all.”
Constable Sean Wentzel from the Medicine Hat Police Service Forensic Unit rounds out the group of new instructors.
He also has his masters in forensic science. He has plans to use 3-D technology in teaching his courses.
“It’s a great team and it’s nice to see everything evolving,” adds Groom.
He wants to make sure the program fits what students are looking for and college officials will conduct surveys at the end of the year to make sure the level of satisfaction is high.
Students taking the program this year have travelled from B.C., Saskatchewan, as well as Lethbridge, a few from Red Deer and the United States.
Coupled with the impressive level of instructors, Goodfellow likes the direction the program is taking and the size of the facility. The quality is there and with smaller class sizes, there will be more time for closer individualized instruction.
Goodfellow says being in a smaller centre will also help him focus on his studies and keep him on an even keel. He has moved around a lot and has always liked smaller communities.
“I make friends easy,” says Goodfellow. “While I’m here I can work.”
Goodfellow will fit in with the positive environment at the college. He has a volunteer background having helping helped coach a Special Olympics floor hockey team in Swift Current.
“You get a sense of personal gain ... (the players) brightened my day every time I was with them,” explains Goodfellow who travelled to Saskatoon to get specialized training in coaching the special athletes.
Goodfellow’s heart is in the right place and is keen on getting his education and then moving on to more specialized training in law enforcement. For now, he knows he has a big task ahead of him making sure he keeps up with his studies, tackling the books, before tackling solving crimes and keeping streets safer.
“I’m jumping into life now ...” he notes.

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Ryan Dahlman

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