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  • College of Arts & Sciences

    • Social Sciences Division
    • Kapelski Learning Center, Room 226
    • tel: 610-499-4365
    • fax: 610-499-4603
  • Lauren Shermer, PhD

    • Criminal Justice Chair
    • Kapelski Learning Center, Room 232
    • tel: 610-499-4529
    • fax: 610-499-4603

Experiential Learning, Criminal Justice

Students in the criminal justice program are able to experience the system firsthand and network with criminal justice professionals, along with successful alumni, who help connect them to other professionals in the field and provide an understanding of various career options.

Seasoned professionals who work in local criminal justice agencies regularly attend classes and campus events as guest speakers. Students have the opportunity to tour prison, court, and our local criminal investigation division.

Most importantly, students gain on-the-job experience, primarily through the required internship, but also through service-learning opportunities where they can apply the knowledge learned in class while also giving back to the community. 

Required Internship

At Widener, students in the criminal justice program have opportunities to learn the workings of the criminal justice system while earning their degree. Examples of internships include:

  • FBI, U.S. Marshalls
  • Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police
  • Philadelphia and  Chester Police Departments
  • Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division
  • Montgomery County Adult Probation
  • Delaware County Juvenile Detention and Probation
  • U.S. Attorney General’s Office
  • State Correctional Institution in Chester
  • Domestic Abuse Project

Service Learning

In keeping with Widener’s mission, criminal justice students engage in service learning as part of their coursework. Students have mentored and tutored youth who are in juvenile detention or on probation and through the Chester High School Youth Court. Students have also assisted with the reintegration of convicted offenders in Philadelphia and Chester. In addition, students have co-authored journal articles with Widener faculty on Widener’s service-learning programs in criminal justice.


Criminal justice majors complete research projects as part of their coursework. This research permits students to complete an actual research project from beginning to end. Titles of recent projects follow:

  • Risk Factors for Offending Among Second-Generation Hispanic Immigrants
  • Negative Outcomes of Sexual Assault Among Adolescent Males
  • A Study of Recidivism among Female Offenders: Does Drug Abuse Treatment Work?
  • Factors Influencing Drug Court Graduation 

Students are also involved in research with faculty. Dr. Maier enlisted the help of a student to perform a literature review and proof the manuscript for her latest book, Rape, Victims and Investigations, and Dr. Nicksa involved a student in research on riots, which led to a presentation at a national academic conference.

Living Learning Community

Freshmen criminal justice majors have the opportunity to be part of the criminal justice Living Learning Community (LLC). LLC teams live in the same on-campus dorm and learn together with increased faculty–student interaction. Additional LLC activities include:

  • Field trips to the Delaware County Courthouse and Criminal Investigation Division
  • Lunches with law enforcement to learn about policing
  • Dinners with faculty to learn about criminal justice topics, such as sexual violence on college campuses
  • Criminal justice movies and discussions with faculty
  • Meetings with criminal justice organization executive board to increase leadership skills 

On-Campus Clubs

Student participation in the Criminal Justice Organization and the Criminal Justice Honor Society, Alpha Phi Sigma, is encouraged and provides additional opportunities to make friends and network with criminal justice professionals and upperclassmen. As part of these clubs, students have the opportunity to:

  • Attend guest presentations by professionals such as the Delaware County Ballistics Expert and the Assistant United States Attorney
  • Organize and implement an internship panel in which upper-class students share their internship experiences with first- and second-year students to mentor and provide networking guidance
  • Conduct a workshop with youth on probation