First Class Graduates from D.C.J. Program

May 13, 2019

Graduates say the degree blends the theoretical with the practical for maximum career advancement.

dcj grads

Some of the members on the first class to graduate with a Doctor of Criminal Justice along with program instructors gathered on the steps of Watkins Hall before Commencement.


Cal U celebrated along with 19 students who earned their Doctor of Criminal Justice during the 188th Commencement ceremony on  May 10. 

The accelerated, 42-credit hour program focused on criminal justice reform with an emphasis on effective policing, criminal investigation and rehabilitation; avoiding wrongful convictions; and observing civil rights. 

Students passed comprehensive examinations and complete doctoral research portfolios. They also underwent an instructor development course, which is recognized in Pennsylvania by the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission. 

Cal U's D.C.J. is the first regionally accredited professional doctorate in criminal justice in the country and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. 

“It’s an intense program, but very practical,” said LaLinda McMillan Street, an English professor at Prince George's County (Md.) Community College. “My goal is to get back to my passion, which is to teach criminal justice courses,” she said. 

Rodger Perkins earned his master’s degree in legal studies from Cal U in 2008 and is a security consultant after a career in the U.S. Air Force, most recently at the Pentagon. 

“I’ve always been interested in jurisprudence,” Perkins said. “I want to get into teaching so that I can mentor the next generation of law enforcement officers.” 

Keeping career options open was the goal for Kirstie Bruno-Stark, who works for Fayette County (Pa.) Adult Probation. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal U, in criminal justice and criminal justice studies. 

“I’m ‘Cal Who, Cal U’ all the way,” she said. “The sky’s the limit. This opens up so many options; maybe one day I’ll want to work for the FBI. I forged so many friendships for a lifetime in this program.” 

“This program attracts leaders in policing, federal agents, corrections, probation and parole, research, investigations and academics,” said Dr. John Cencich, professor and director of criminal justice graduate programs at Cal U. 

“I told this first cohort two years ago that they would pave the way. The third cohort starts in a few weeks and is even bigger and broader.” 

Tim Malfitano is retired as deputy director of public safety in Jacksonville, N.C. He’s an assistant professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Mount Olive. He starts law school in January. 

“If you want to market yourself, get this degree,” he said. “We should learn all the time as adults. I wanted something that would let me teach young adults how to research and fact-find. 

“The program has the right amount of theory and research. It’s the right mix of ‘research’ and ‘real.'”