THOMSON - When Evan Flynn saw that only three people had showed up for Augusta Tech's inaugural Criminal Justice class in Thomson, he wasn't sure what to make of it.
Fortunately, his first impression wasn't a prelude of things to come.
While admittedly starting from humble beginnings, the Thomson campus of Augusta Technical College has seen a dramatic increase in enrollment for its Criminal Justice program. In only a year, enrollment has ballooned from three to 60.
"I am very pleased after having looked at a program that at first had only three or four students and had to cancel the first class, to a program now around 60," said Flynn, Director of Instructional Services and Continuing Education. "Right now, I've got four or five adjunct instructors. Right now, we only offer an evening course, but if I can get enough, I'm looking forward to expanding to a day time class as well. The program has grown larger and more quickly than I expected."
Augusta Tech provides two programs within Criminal Justice - a diploma program and a program that grants an associate's (AA) degree. Flynn noted that he's also seeing an increase in the number of Columbia County residents who are participating in the Thomson program, which may be due to that county's increase in base pay of $1,200 per year for someone with an AA degree. McDuffie County does not yet reward those with advanced degrees, however.
Adjunct professor Terrence Sommers demonstrates the proper procedure for searching a vehicle at a mock crime scene for students in the criminal justice program at the Thomson campus of Augusta Technical College.
Photo by Elwood Hamilton
The program is destined as supplemental for those either seeking careers in law enforcement or for those already employed in the industry. According to the program's mission statement, "Students learn the fundamentals of personnel security, physical security, information and computer security, security guard management and security technology."
"We want to give the person a little more of a skill set when they apply for a job, and with the diploma, as well as the associate's degree, it will benefit them tremendously," said Ken Jones, Department Head for Criminal Justice. "Of course a lot of what's sparked the interest is the occurrence of 9/11. There seems to be a lot more interest in the field than even a few years ago."
School officials are actively trying to recruit more students for the program. They're also looking to add a full-time professor as well, though due to the statewide budget dilemma, are unsure as to when such an addition could be made.
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