Half a Decade: Looking back at Criminal Justice
Katia Gallardo, Staff Writer
Half a decade. For half a decade, I spent my time racing to complete my Criminal Justice degree at Mount Royal University (MRU). This past May, I was thankful enough to finally walk the stage and take home my really expensive piece of parchment. As a result, my degree secured me a full time position at a domestic violence intervention agency that hosted me as their practicum student.
I’m working full time applying what I had absorbed in classrooms to the real world of justice and law. If you’re a Criminal Justice major looking for advice to survive your years of study, then look no further. As your former fellow student, now MRU alumna, I’d like to share some of my experiences as I spent my time (and money), at Mount Royal.
Criminal Justice is an amazing degree for a host of reasons. The graphic cases and reports discussed in lectures will provoke original thoughts and ideas about how the justice system works. Class discussions inspire the need to investigate what parts of the current justice system work in everyone’s favor, and which areas are needing improvement to better serve people and communities.
While stereotypical to say, I also noticed that the majority of the men in the program were aiming to become Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP) or police officers, while the women were studying to become lawyers or be involved in law. As for me, I was striving to be involved in either criminal forensics or domestic violence cases. You will find that this degree can open up many opportunities for students looking for an exciting career in criminal justice or criminology.
The majority of the classes made it easy to follow their guidance of the fundamentals of criminological theories and law structures. First and second year within Criminal Justice were particularly intimidating, especially for new students.
The shift in style of learning from high school to university will feel very alienating. There will often be less assignments but they’ll be higher graded than what you’re used to. Having a paper worth 30-50 per cent of your grade will become the new norm. Certain assignments will require you to develop independence to complete the work, but always go to a fellow classmate or professor for clarification or help if you need it. Take your professors up on their offers to review your assignment before it’s due, that’s an easy way to get a solid extra 10 per cent on your papers!
I was always more safe than sorry, and a sucker who bought every textbook or reading material I needed for my classes. It wasn’t until my last year of study did I realize how many times I spent money on a 500-page textbook, and only read about 20 pages of it for a class. Inquire to the professor and/or a former student of the class about how well the textbook assisted in their learning, and if it is genuinely necessary. Some professors will still swear by the textbook, but remember that the MRU library will have a copy or two of the material, and you can make photo-copies or take photos of the reading you need. Asking to borrow books, buying second hand, or purchasing digital copies of textbooks/readings are always the cheapest if you prefer.
My last sliver of advice is be patient and avoid taking anything too seriously. You will eventually get that degree. It’s okay to take your best shot at the midterm you barely studied for and see what happens. Beating yourself up and stressing about the assignment that’s due in an hour that you wish you had more time on, will not change your overall placement in the degree. Remember, a 10 per cent on an assignment is better than a flat zero per cent. Stay determined to stick it through.
Every student stresses about their grades, but if you’re not enjoying what you’re learning and only focusing on a 4.0 GPA, then MRU will feel more like a chore than a window of possibility. Allow yourself space to grow and make mistakes. I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes during my time at MRU, but I still walked the stage and was proud of both my blunders and my victories with every step.
Remember, it’s only half a decade.