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Criminology & Criminal Justice

mercyhurst criminal justice graduate


The Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice at Mercyhurst opens the door for students to learn about the operation of the criminal justice system, from the necessary historical background to the legal and sociological perspectives.

Our nationally and internationally recognized faculty members have diverse backgrounds in law enforcement, criminology, victimology, juvenile justice, constitutional law, ethics and corrections. Several faculty members have published books and journal articles, consulted for criminal justice agencies and presented their research at local, regional, national and international conferences.

Here at Mercyhurst, not only are students known by name, professors also know our students' individual interests and strengths. Faculty provide personal advising and mentoring by assisting students with scheduling, internships and their career paths.

Criminal justice majors have completed internships to complement their classroom learning at places like police and sheriff's departments, juvenile and adult probation offices, prisons and jails, law offices, district attorney and public defender’s offices and county judges.

Want to get more involved outside the classroom? Check out the Criminal Justice Association, Mock Trial Team, or Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. These extracurricular experiences give you the opportunity to build friendships with other criminal justice students as you gain even more experience in the field through field trips, scenario-based shooting practice, service activities, national tournaments and conferences and more.

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Hear from Students


amanda“I chose to attend Mercyhurst because of the amazing opportunity to be allowed to graduate with my masters in five years along with my bachelor’s degree. The 4+1 program was what truly made this school stand above all other schools I had gotten accepted into”.

Amanda Pierre-Louis
Wheatley Heights N.Y



Distinguished Alumni



Dr. Mary Finn

Director, School of Criminal Justice
Michigan State University





Student Awards & Honors

Holly Donlin-Smith 

(pictured on right)
Penfield, NY
Recipient of the National Technical Investigators’ Association (NATIA) Captain James J. Regan Memorial Scholarship.
Read more





Kinnane Conference

Mercyhurst University and its Civic Institute with support from the university’s Criminology & Criminal Justice Department, Criminal Justice Administration Graduate Program, and Public Safety Institute host criminal justice themed conferences for almost fourty years. This is the largest conference for local and regional criminal justice practitioners in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The prestigious James V. Kinnane Award is presented at the conference. The James V. Kinnane Award is presented in memory of former Mercyhurst Criminal Justice Department Chair, James V. Kinnane, who embodied the qualities of public service that Mercyhurst criminal justice programs seek to encourage in their students.

Students are invited to attend this one day conference. Some of the recent conference themes were:
—IMPACT: Domestic Violence – The toll it takes on our community and what we can do about it
—Minor Problems Major Impact: Juveniles in the Adult Criminal Justice System
—Systems Gone Awry: When Criminal Justice Meets Mental Health
—Cyber Crimes in Cyber Times


Clubs and Organizations

Alpha Phi Sigma

Alpha Phi Sigma (APS) is the only National Criminal Justice Honor Society for Criminal Justice Majors. The society recognizes academic excellence of undergraduate and graduate students of criminal justice. Alpha Phi Sigma is the only Criminal Justice Honor Society which is a certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies and affiliated with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. The United States Government recognizes membership in Alpha Phi Sigma as meeting one of the requirements for entrance at the GS-7 level in the Federal service.

APS is an honorary and professional organization. Membership in APS showcases students’ achievements as well as provides opportunities to participate in social and community activities. APS holds a national conference in conjunction with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences meeting (every March). This is an excellent opportunity to meet with other members of APS and also network with professionals in the criminal justice field.

The Mercyhurst University Chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma is the Upsilon Chapter, which was chartered in October 1981. The Chapter has received 3 national awards for most outstanding Chapter. Criminal Justice honor society students have been active participants in community projects, campus presentations, and national meetings of Alpha Phi Sigma.

Recent APS activities include:

  • Participation in an ACJS conference in Orlando, FL
  • Participation in PACJE conference and tour of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia
  • Coordination of a cell phone drive, benefited Safe-Net, a domestic violence shelter
  • Halloween crafts with youth at the Martin Luther King Center 
  • Induction Ceremony at the Erie Yacht Club, with a federal judge as a featured speaker
  • Wearing honor cords at graduation ceremony

Requirements for Membership: (Undergraduate students)

  • Declare a criminal justice major or minor
  • Maintain a minimum of 3.2 overall GPA on a 4.0 Scale
  • Maintain a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale in criminal justice courses
  • Rank in the top 35% of their class
  • Have completed a minimum of four criminal justice courses

APS Contact: Dr. Maria Garase
Phone: (814) 824-3675


Criminal Justice Association

The purposes of the Criminal Justice Association is to recognize and promote learning within field experiences; to assist students in preparing for a career in the criminal justice field; and to recognize and appreciate the necessity of education along with practical experience and training in becoming professional criminal justice practitioners. Members of the CJ Association bring speakers on campus, got to Shoot, Don’t Shoot activities, go to the firearm safety courses, and coordinate student field trips.

Examples of some of their activities include:

  • Speakers (juvenile probation, BARJ coordinator, forensic pathologist, district attorney, ROTC recruiter)
  • Shoot, Don’t Shoot Simulation (Students go to the police academy and “shoot” targets as well as seen various scenarios on an interactive computer screen and have to decide to shoot the perpetrator or not given the situation. This is a computer simulation used by officers in their trainings. 
  • Firearm Familiarization (Students who have never fired a weapon before can attend a firearms familiarization workshop. A certified firearm instructor walked students through firearm usage and allows the students to use firearms in a controlled and supervised range.) 
  • Field Trips (Students have coordinated field trip to local prisons and the court house to sit in on hearings) 

Advisor Contact
CJ Club Contact: Tina Fryling
Phone: 814-824-3109


Mock Trial Team

The Mercyhurst University Mock Trial Team is an interdisciplinary student team that prepares students for many different career paths by providing experiences in public speaking, debate, court room mannerisms and much more. Students especially interested in future positions such as lawyers, investigators, policemen, and/or psychiatrists would benefit from participating in the mock trial competitions.  The techniques learned from Mock Trial will produce prepared students for a profession in any field that requires court appearances. Students will be able to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to actual legal cases in a collegial, yet, competitive environment.

We are a member of the national American Mock Trial Association (AMTA).  Every year there is a National Competition that brings over 300 schools together by trying a case chosen by the organization. These competitions raise the bar for all Universities when such prestigious schools are working hard for success in the competition and the future.

Mock Trial Contact: Dr. Maria Garase
Phone: (814) 824-3675


Graduate and Law Schools

Our students are academically and professionally prepared for entry-level positions in criminal justice and social service agencies as well as for continuing their education in graduate and/or law schools. Some of our students pursued graduate degrees at the following colleges and universities.
  • Mercyhurst University
  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • SUNY Albany
  • SUNY Stone Brook
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Cincinnati
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Florida State University

Students also were accepted into regional and national law schools, a sampling of these include the following.

  • Suffolk University Law School
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Duquesne University
  • University of Dayton
  • University of Buffalo
  • University of Maine
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Akron

A degree from Mercyhurst prepares you for this exciting and dynamic career.

Major(s) Criminal Justice Major
Minor(s) Pre-Law Minor
  Psychology of Crime and Justice Minor
Concentration(s) Corrections Concentration
  Criminology Concentration
  Juvenile Justice Concentration
  Law Enforcement Concentration
  Pre-Law Concentration
4+1 Program BA in Criminal Justice and MS in Criminal Justice Administration

Ready to begin your journey in criminal justice?  Apply online today -- it's free and getting your application started takes only a few brief minutes.  Interested students may also consult the course catalog for more information.  As a liberal arts institution, all undergraduate students complete Mercyhurst's core curriculum

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is dedicated to developing critical thinking, diversity appreciation, civic responsibility, leadership and social justice in our undergraduate and graduate students. We prepare students for careers in the helping professions, for leadership in criminal justice and community affairs, and for the pursuit of advanced degrees. Engaging students in sustained and civil conversations about the relationship between individual and community well-being is both an objective and a means for realizing other objectives.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the historical context of the Criminal Justice System and profession.
  • Demonstrate synthesis, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of legal aspects of criminal justice operations.
  • Synthesize and apply basic knowledge of sociological issues affecting criminal justice.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of methodological concepts for conducting and analyzing research.
  • Demonstrate and apply knowledge of professional skills for criminal justice.

The Criminology & Criminal Justice faculty and the Career Development Center highly encourage students to complete an internship within their concentration to complement their classroom learning. Mercyhurst University has many partnerships with police and sheriff’s departments, juvenile and adult probation offices, prisons and jails, community corrections agencies, law offices, county judges, district attorney’s and public defender’s offices. We place students in federal, state, and local agencies. We add new placements every year!

Although students can be placed anywhere in the country for their internship, a number of students complete their internships in Erie County. There are many criminal justice and social service agencies close to campus. For example, the Erie County Courthouse, which houses many criminal justice agencies, is within a 10 minute drive of campus (it is also on the bus route from campus). Students have the option to do their placements during the school year or during the summer.

Below is a sampling of our criminal justice internship placements:

  • City of Erie Police Department 
  • U.S. Marshal’s Office (Western District of NY)
  • New York State Police
  • Boston Police Department
  • Ocean City Police Department (Maryland)
  • Buffalo Police Department
  • Los Angeles Police Department
  • Allegheny County Police Department
  • St. Mary’s Police Department
  • Warren County Sheriff’s Office
  • Erie County (NY) Sheriff's Department
  • Avalon Police Department (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Lackawanna Police Department (Buffalo, NY)
  • Dover Police Department (Dover, NH)
  • Shaker Heights, Police Department (Ohio)
  • Geauga County, Sheriff’s Department
  • District Attorney’s Office, Nassau County
  • Amberley Village Police Department
  • Presque Isle State Park Police
  • Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department
  • St. Mary’s Police Department
  • Erie County, Edmund L. Thomas Detention Center
  • Erie County PA Adult Probation/Parole
  • Erie County PA Juvenile Probation
  • Erie County PA Public Defender’s Office
  • Erie International Airport Police
  • Pennsylvania Board Probation/Parole (Western District, Erie office)
  • Clearfield County Probation Department
  • Nicholas Perot & Smith Kohler Wall
  • Clearfield Co Magisterial District Judges
  • Erie County District Magistrates
  • Ford City Magistrate
  • Venango County Court of Common Pleas
  • Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh)
  • Monroe County Public Defender's Office (New York)
  • Chautauqua County District Attorney (New York)
  • Perseus House (Juvenile Treatment facilities)
  • Achievement Center
  • Gateway Rehabilitation 
  • Sarah Reed Children’s Center
  • Hermitage House Youth Services
  • Allegheny Co. Juvenile Probation
  • Butler County Adult Probation
  • Auberle (Juvenile Residential Treatment)
  • Community Corrections Center
  • SafeNet, (Domestic Violence Services)
  • Bayfront Maritime Center
  • George Junior Republic
  • SCI Cambridge Springs (Prison)
  • SCI, Albion (Prison)
  • Waldameer Amusement Park (Security)
  • Swan & Dolphin Hotel (Walt Disney World)
  • Presque Isle Downs and Casino

This is not an exhaustive listing as we add new placements every year.

EmmaLeigh Kirchner, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Office: Preston 115
Phone: (814) 824-2328

Frank Hagan
Professor Emeritus

Maria L Garase
Department Chair, Associate Professor
Office: Preston 120
Phone: (814) 824-3675

Pete Benekos, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus

Spyridon Kodellas, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Office: Preston 128
Phone: (814)-824-3109

Tina Fryling
M.S., J.D.
Associate Professor
Office: Preston 122
Phone: (814) 824-2352