Cal U. launches program for criminal justice Ph.D.


CALIFORNIA – Federal law enforcement officials, state police officers and police chiefs were engaged in a weeklong residency program as the first class of California University of Pennsylvania’s doctorate of criminal justice program got under way.

The university said in a press release that the professional doctorate program – the first regionally accredited D.C.J. degree in the United States – was approved in January. Classes began this week.

The highly competitive program has drawn more than 100 applications from qualified mid- and senior-level criminal justice practitioners across the country.

In addition to law enforcement officers, the 26 students selected for the program’s first class include counselors; forensic specialists; corrections, probation and parole officers; professors; and others involved in the administration of justice.

“There’s a wide range of experiences in this group,” said program director Dr. John Cencich, of Cal U.’s Department of Criminal Justice. “That’s only going to enhance the program. I anticipate some very good discussions, a good exchange of ideas.”

Students enrolled in the two-year D.C.J. program will complete nearly all of their coursework through Cal U. Global Online, the university’s online learning community. The five-day residency, held primarily at Cal U.’s Southpointe Center, lets students meet their classmates and Cal U. faculty, and hear from nationally recognized criminal justice experts.

“It’s convenient,” said John Thacik, one of two Pennsylvania State Police officers enrolled in the program. “I want to go as far as I can in the state police. That’s why I’m here.”

Speakers at the program’s opening sessions included Dr. Jay Albanese, former chief of the International Center at the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Justice Department; Dr. Cyril Wecht, former Allegheny County medical examiner; and Adam Bercovici, retired commander of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Students also heard from Cal U. faculty, who have extensive backgrounds in law enforcement, international and homeland security, criminal investigative analysis, forensic science, cybercrime investigations, legal science and more.

“I like the design of the program,” said class member David Baer, a police chief from Marco Island, Fla. “It’s not a traditional Ph.D. program. It’s more practical, more focused on applied learning rather than academic research.”

That focus also appeals to Steven Shaffer, a retired police captain who teaches criminal justice at Butler County Community College.

“Things are constantly evolving” in the field of criminal justice, he said.

“Already these speakers have given me information that I can take back to my classroom.”

In addition to the DCJ degree, the Department of Criminal Justice at Cal U. offers bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice and a 100 percent online master’s degree in applied criminology.

To apply or learn more about the new Doctor of Criminal Justice degree at Cal U., visit or contact program director Dr. John Cencich at

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