Posted: 5/01/21

TAMIU Adds New Doctoral Degree in Criminal Justice


Dr. Claudia San Miguel, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences  

There’s a new doctorate in the house at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU). In action last week, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved TAMIU’s  new doctoral degree program in Criminal Justice.

Course offerings will begin this Fall  for TAMIU’s Ph.D. in Criminal Justice,  the University’s second free-standing doctoral program in its 50-year history.  TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz said the degree addition moves the University closer to designation as a doctoral-granting institution.

“TAMIU continues its ascendancy by creating richly relevant degree programs that address critical local, regional, national and international needs.  The addition of this doctoral degree also elevates the University’s academic status, accelerating our classification as  a doctoral-granting institution,” he said.

TAMIU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, Dr. Tom Mitchell, noted the program’s expedited development in a relatively short 10 years, is impressive.

“Doctoral programs are the most difficult of degree programs to create and approve and can take decades to get off the ground.  The program must be distinguished by its focus and cannot be duplicative of other doctoral programs.  We’ve managed to do so in an impressive 10 years through absolute faculty commitment and determination to bring our University a doctoral degree that will produce exemplary scholars with global employment opportunities,” Dr. Mitchel said.

The Ph.D. in Criminal Justice will be at home in TAMIU’s College of Arts and Sciences, department of Social Sciences.

Dean Dr. Claudia San Miguel said program’s development  grew from a need to address critical needs.

“As with all new degree programs we explore, we analyze job market needs in academia and professional fields. In particular, we look at national and state workforce needs. A recent nationwide survey of 35 ranked doctoral criminal justice and criminology programs conducted by the Association of Doctoral Programs in Criminology & Criminal Justice illustrated a strong and urgent need for individuals with a doctoral degree in Criminal Justice to fill positions not only at local, state, and federal justice agencies, but especially in academia. There’s also a  pressing need  to hire more professors to educate the next generation of justice professionals. The Texas Workforce Commission has indicated a demand for individuals with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice to fill salient jobs within the criminal justice field. Given the documented job market need for Ph.D. in Criminal Justice graduates at the local, state, and national level, our Ph.D. in Criminal Justice degree program will play a critical and important role in addressing this need. This is especially true given our geographical location on the border, and with TAMIU being the only institution of higher education within a 120-mile radius,” Dr. San Miguel explained. 

San Miguel noted TAMIU now joins a limited group of  four universities in Texas offering a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice.  She maintains TAMIU’s program is distinguished based on both its research location and  cost-effective delivery.

“There are three universities in Texas offering a doctoral degree in Criminal Justice: Sam Houston State University, the oldest and most prominent institution granting a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice; Texas State University, whose program began earlier in the decade, and Tarleton State University, launched in Fall 2019. We wanted to be  innovative in establishing our own identity as a Hispanic-serving institution along the U.S./México border.  We were laser-focused on our location as a  ‘living laboratory’ that naturally exists in a border town. We have unique criminal justice issues that were not as pronounced in Texas cities where other doctoral degrees are offered. We took our unique location as both challenge and opportunity. While TAMIU is a relatively young university to the field of Criminal Justice, Laredo is a significant convergence point for examining local, state, and federal Criminal Justice issues. In conjunction with our historically popular and rapidly growing BS/MS in Criminal Justice programs, and its cadre of Ph.D.-trained scholars, TAMIU is poised to combine scholarly practice, student interest, faculty expertise, successful technological pedagogy, and Laredo’s unique criminal justice activity to create a rich, doctoral opportunity. 

“One other thing that we were especially focused on was mode of delivery. Given the many local, county, state, and federal agencies in Laredo and the fact that we did not want to exclude potential students from any region in the U.S. as well as internationally, we specifically designed our program to be accessible to all students—regardless of their location. The mode of education will be a hybrid delivery format with the first semester occurring face-to-face and subsequent semesters provided synchronously online. This creates a  cost-effective program with a four-year completion time through use of effective online teaching technologies allowing interaction between professors and students without travel,” San Miguel explained.

She said the  University’s enviable research location will be a real program draw. 

“TAMIU’s border-adjacent location affords prospective students a valuable opportunity to apply knowledge at the nexus of the border and crime.  These crimes include, but are not limited to terrorism, human trafficking/smuggling, immigration offenses, and drug trafficking. The University enjoys connections to all relevant criminal justice agencies in Laredo, providing students with a hands-on approach. Our location, cadre of well-trained and research-productive core and support faculty, and criminal justice agency connections will provide a vibrant academic experience that emphasizes border-related crimes.  Whether students are local, regional, national, or international in origin, they will experience TAMIU’s Ph.D. in Criminal Justice as a transformative program aimed at producing exemplary scholars.  All  will be  prepared to enter Criminal Justice careers and professions in academia, government, non-profit organizations and/or the private sector,” she said.

San Miguel outlined the program’s structure and path to degree completion. 

“Our program is a four-year, cohort-based hybrid (face-to-face and online) delivery format. Its curriculum requires courses in criminal justice theory, quantitative research methods and statistics, as well as law and policy, with an emphasis on homeland security and border issues.

It will require a research portfolio and dissertation work. Admission requires prospective students meet specified standards provided by our Graduate School, including completing a Master’s degree before beginning coursework.  International students seeking admission to the program must meet Graduate School’s international student admission requirements.  Applicants with a  Juris Doctorate (J.D.) must complete and pass a Master’s level statistics course with at least a ‘B.’ Qualified students can also receive assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships,” she explained. 

San Miguel said the future looks quite bright for Ph.D. in Criminal Justice graduates.

“By design, our graduates will be prepared, trained, and ready for academic jobs at research-intensive colleges and universities. Our curriculum, combined with exposure to activities and case studies derived from our faculty’s research collaboration and professional engagements with locally based State and Federal law enforcement agencies (CBP, DHS, DEA, FBI, ICE, etc.), will naturally position our graduates for success. We’ll  produce graduates with the theoretical knowledge, actual and practical experience, and marketable skills to assume high level leadership roles in a broad spectrum of criminal justice practice such as those found in academia, government, and the private sector,” she said.

In closing, she noted that the program’s successful creation and Fall offering has only been made possible by a remarkable and sustained team effort.

“We are indebted to our Ph.D. Criminal Justice Work Group including Dr. Marcus Ynalvez, Dr. Sean Maddan, Dr. Fei Luo, Dr. Jennifer Coronado, Dr. Marcus Carey, Dr. Heather Alaniz, Dr. Jack Byham, Dr. Ariadne González, Julian Peña, Youssef Elmasry and Miguel Rangel.  Additional critical support came from  Dr. Frances Bernat, Dr. Kate Houston, Dr. Jared Dmello, Dr. Brittany Hood and Dr. Jascha Wagner.  They truly carried this vision to delivery,” San Miguel concluded. 

For additional information on TAMIU’s Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, contact Dr. Sean A. Maddan, assistant professor and chair, College of Arts and Sciences, department of Social Sciences by  email at sean.maddan@tamiu.edu call 956.326.2467 or visit offices in the Academic Innovation Center, room 372. 

Registration for Maymester, Summer and Fall semester at TAMIU is now underway.

Celebrating the launch of TAMIU's second Ph.D. program are, left to right, Dr. Sean A. Madddan, assistant professor and chair, department of Social Sciences; Dr. Claudia San MIguel, dean, College of Arts and Sciences;  Dr. Tom Mitchell, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Pablo Arenaz, president, TAMIU.