PARAMUS, NJ – Bergen Community College has received a $35,000 grant that allows the school to broaden its criminal justice program to include more humanities.

Integrating the study of film, art, music and literature into the school’s existing criminal justice program will ultimately better prepare students to work with diverse communities as a law enforcement officer one day, college officials believe.

Richard Kuiters, criminal justice department chair, said, “We are taking and offering a humanistic approach to policing. The community wants highly aware law enforcement who have strong communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills.”

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Kuiters, along with assistant professor of English Eileen Fitzgerald, worked to secure the funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to launch the classes during the summer semester.

“We are confident that this combination of integrated academic experiences and practical hands-on application will benefit our criminal justice students, and by extension, our criminal justice system and our society as a whole,” Fitzgerald, said.

Fitzgerald added: “The planning committee is very excited about receiving this grant because the generosity of the National Endowment for the Humanities will enrich the pre-professional experiences of our criminal justice students.”

The new offering will consist of three aspects: interdisciplinary courses, a capstone project and community interaction.

Instructors from art, history, literature, philosophy and religion with collaborate with the school’s criminal justice and legal studies departments to design courses that integrate assignments, readings and other work with a criminal justice theme, according to the college.

It will also include collaboration with professional organizations, such as the New Jersey Police Chiefs’ Association, and other potential employers to give students a field-based experience. 

The school’s criminal justice program enrolls about 850 students who plan to pursue careers in law enforcement, homeland security, corrections, forensic science, private security and legal services.  

According to Bergen Community, coursework in the new offering will be transferrable to John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Bergen Community was the only community college in New Jersey this cycle to be awarded NEH’s Humanities Connections grant, a program that seeks to expand the role of humanities in undergraduate education at two- and four-year schools.

NEH offers grants of up to $100,000 to develop a series of three or more linked courses focusing on humanities. 

Programs must involve collaboration between faculty from separate departments or schools within an institution and incorporate meaningful student engagement activities such as undergraduate research projects, opportunities for civic engagement, or a structured experience with community-based, project-based, or site-based learning.

When the NEH announced the launch of the grant in 2016, Chairman William D. Adams said the independent federal agency hopes it will “help prepare students in all academic fields for their roles as engaged citizens and productive professionals in a rapidly changing and interdependent world.”

“The most important challenges and opportunities of the 21st century require the habits of mind and forms of knowledge fostered by study of the humanities,” Adams said.