For Tristan Paredes ’21, this fall semester is like no other - and not just because of COVID. The undergrad criminal justice major has started to work toward earning his Master’s degree and is attending his first two graduate courses this term, which include Leadership in the 21st Century and Social Policy and the Administration of Justice.
He says juggling his undergraduate and graduate courses is a challenge. Still, he’s motivated by the expanded career opportunities afforded by the 5th Year Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ) dual degree program.
“The graduate courses can be content-heavy, and more is expected from you compared to my undergraduate classes,” he says. “For my first semester, I’m learning how to balance the two different course loads, and I’ve found that it is helpful to study with my classmates in my graduate classes. The professors at Curry College are also accommodating and welcoming. If you ever need help on an assignment or have questions about a course, they are always willing to lend a helping hand.”
Intending to become a police officer, as a high school senior, Paredes selected Curry College for its first-class criminal justice program, small class sizes, and the unique support model provided by the Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL). “Since I was a little kid, I have always had an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and have struggled with school,” he says. “When I saw the PAL program at Curry College, I knew that it would help me through my more challenging courses.”
Now, four years later, the senior is gaining a head start on his career in blue by earning both his undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in five years, saving on both tuition and time. Paredes will complete his undergraduate coursework in the spring and continue with two graduate courses through the summer and next academic year. During that fifth year, he plans to take the civil service exam and begin searching for opportunities to join the police force in Massachusetts. “I know that when I join a department with a Master’s degree that not only will I have an opportunity for additional salary potential, but it will make it easier for me to move up in the ranks as a police officer.”
While he’s only just started in the graduate program, he’s most impressed by the exposure he now has to law enforcement professionals. “Being in the 5th year program is incredibly valuable because I have this built-in network of professionals to learn alongside that are already working in the field. It’s exciting to hear about their personal experiences being on the job. I get insight into what the job is like and can learn from all of their experiences.”
In addition to the cohort of undergraduate students in the 5th year MACJ program, many area law enforcement officials and other criminal justice professionals pursue the traditional Master of Arts in Criminal Justice program at Curry College later in their careers. By mixing theory with practice, the program allows graduates to advance reflective thinking capabilities and become more adept at problem-solving, mentoring, and management. Recent collaborative community-based projects led by MACJ students have helped local law enforcement agencies address challenges related to race relations and recreational marijuana.
While he hasn’t decided which area of policing he’d like to join, Paredes is confident that he’ll enter the force with a high level of knowledge and skill and be ready to protect and serve. “Many police officers in my life have continuously reminded me of how important it is to get an education, and I know that pursuing the 5th year dual degree program will only add to my success as a career police officer.”