BVU Announces Center For Criminal Justice Studies

Buena Vista University has approved the launch of the Center for Criminal Justice Studies. 

The innovative Center–which will be housed in Swope Hall on the BVU campus–will include a simulation room, three crime scene investigation rooms, a meeting area, and classroom space.

“The Center will train students to think critically in difficult, high-stress situations,” says Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, professor of history and dean of the School of Social Science, Philosophy & Religion at BVU. “It will also train students to evaluate a crime scene keeping in mind at all times the laws which allow them to do their work and prevent them from infringing upon the civil liberties of the accused.”

The Center’s cutting-edge simulation room will immerse users with more than 800 pre-programmed computer generated scenarios, including more than 50 spoken in Spanish to build students’ multicultural awareness. These scenarios will allow students to integrate real-world situations into the classroom and immediately apply course concepts so they are better prepared to enter the workforce.

As part of the Center’s crime scene investigation learning spaces, BVU’s criminology and criminal justice professors will plant fictional evidence in each of the rooms depending on the scenario and setting. The three spaces will include a “living room” set up, a “bedroom” set up, and a multifunctional scenario room.

“The Center will not train students to use force,” says Bartholomew-Feis. “It will train students to evaluate rapidly-changing situations and to have an eye for de-escalation.”

While other institutions have access to similar crime simulators, there are several components that make BVU’s Center unique, adds Bartholomew-Feis. “While a few other colleges have access to a simulator, it is usually housed at other sites–such as partner community colleges or at police departments, for example. Ours will be on the BVU campus and will be combined with crime scene investigation rooms.”

The Center will also capitalize on the expertise of faculty, including Dr. Richard Riner, who is the assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice; and Dr. Stephanie Hays-Angstrom, who is the associate professor of criminology and criminal justice. Riner holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Dallas and is a former police officer, while Hays-Angstrom holds a Ph.D. from the University of Florida and has conducted extensive research in relation to criminology and understanding deviance as well as law enforcement-related issues within national parks.

All BVU students, including those not majoring or minoring in criminology and criminal justice, will have an opportunity to learn in the Center. The scenarios presented will, in general, educate students about their constitutional rights, says Bartholomew-Feis.

The Center will also be available for scheduling to the Storm Lake Police Department and Buena Vista County Sheriff’s Office, as well as surrounding agencies, for ongoing training opportunities.

BVU’s plan is to have the Center open to students by the Fall 2019 semester. The University’s criminology and criminal justice department also plans to introduce the Center to local officials and law enforcement in late summer 2019 and to alumni in the fall.

For more information or for questions, please contact Bartholomew-Feis at bartholomew@bvu.edu, Riner at rinerr@bvu.edu, or Hays-Angstrom at hays@bvu.edu.