‘Dual Major/Two Degrees’ path propels students in their careers

Graduating with Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies degrees expands students’ professional horizons

Caleb Stensrud graduates this Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. The combination of the two fields led him to a job as community service officer with the Lakeville, Minn., police department. Photo courtesy of Caleb Stensrud.

When Dylan Barber realized he had only a few courses to remaining to take in order to earn a degree in Sociology – in addition to a Criminal Justice Studies degree – he pursued them.

As a result, Barber is graduating on Saturday from the University of North Dakota not only with two majors, but with two separate degrees – a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Sociology.

“I’ve always wanted to be a police officer,” said Barber, who last fall interned with the UND Police Department, where he now works full-time, 12-hour shifts.

“Sociology helped me get a better understanding of how communities interact and how to best adjust my policing style to cater for the different types of groups that I may encounter while being a police officer.”

Barber, who studied at UND on a full scholarship from the Army ROTC, has also earned a commission as a second lieutenant into the North Dakota National Guard, where he will serve while being a University police officer.

“I want to be that person who helps protect the community,” Barber said.

Two degrees at the same time

Teaching complementary expertise and strengths, criminal justice and sociology have blended well to help Barber attain his dream. The dual major – which awards two individual degrees – has risen in popularity at the University, after updates to the degree requirements allowed academic programs to count overlapping courses toward each major.

That change “makes it possible to get the two separate degrees – a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Studies – and to get the two separate degrees in the same time it would take to complete a single degree,” said Daphne Pedersen, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology.

About 30 UND students choose to combine the degrees each year. Most of them are criminal justice students, adding sociology as a second major and degree.

The accomplishment of receiving two standalone degrees, while being an involved member of Army ROTC and the larger University community, makes Barber justifiably proud. Even more so when one considers that Barber, who moved to Grand Forks from Fayetteville, N.C. as a teenager, is a first-generation university graduate, who, at one point in his life did not even envision himself attending college.

Later this month, Barber is to embark on another mission – going to police academy. His goal for the law enforcement training: “graduate the academy at the top of my class this upcoming summer,” he said.

Before that, though, Barber is to be one of roughly a dozen UND seniors to obtain their degrees in Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies during the University’s virtual commencement on Saturday. Also among them is Caleb Stensrud, who is already working as a community service offer with Lakeville, Minn., police department.

“It is more of a public relations and public service position,” Stensrud said of his duties engaging with the community on a daily basis, but also helping the police force during accidents.

Foundational skills

As is the case with Barber, Stensrud secured a job – after an internship – even even graduating. (Both Stensrud and Barber secured internships through the Department of Sociology.) He said his pursuit of both Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies equipped him with the skills that law enforcement agencies around the country are seeking nowadays.

“Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies helped me acquire knowledge in evidence-based practices as well as data use,” Stensrud said. “There’s a big push in community policing for evidence-based practices. Because the Sociology and Criminal Justice Studies departments are emphasizing that, I have a job.”

Stensrud first arrived at UND to study Aviation, but then decided to switch to Criminal Justice Studies. Aviation seemed rushed. Criminal Justice Studies was a discipline he had some interest in. He knew people working in the field. Thus, he pursued it.

When he was looking for a second major to add to his Criminal Justice Studies degree (the program requires students to have either language proficiency or a concentration area, which often leads to a second major, a minor or a certificate), Pedersen helped him settle on the BA-Sociology degree.

This semester, besides working 10-hour shifts and taking a couple of final classes, Stensrud has been completing his capstone projects. In Sociology, he is writing a paper on whether the belief in God makes people happier. In Criminal Justice Studies, he is exploring the effectiveness of pre-release “boot camp” programs for prisoners.

Stensrud is considering enrolling in police academy, but he still has to decide where he wants to go. Until then, he takes pride in “coming away with two degrees in four years’ time.”