Criminal Justice & Criminology Creates Honors Society

The criminology and criminal justice (CCJ) program at the University of Rhode Island recently established their chapter of the honor society Alpha Phi Sigma (APS) and elected their inaugural executive board.

Dr. Megan Parry, an assistant professor of CCJ, was a member of APS during her undergraduate and graduate programs. She thought that URI students may benefit from having it as well.

“I really enjoyed the experience,” Parry said. “There were a lot of neat things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise. It really meant a lot to me as a student.”

In order to be a member of APS nationally, students must have completed a minimum of three semesters of CCJ courses, be at junior standing and maintain a 3.2 GPA at their university. The same requirements are set for URI’s chapter.

The first elections were held this semester. Members of APS were able to elect students for leadership positions such as president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, volunteer coordinator and community outreach coordinator. Shannon Racz, a junior CCJ major, was elected as the inaugural president of the honor society.

“I think it’s important just because the major is growing at a rapid pace,” Racz said. “It’s important that we have some sort of community. That’s what we talk about a lot when we meet as an EBoard, we talk about that sense of community.”

One of the first duties once the executive board was established was to formulate the charter that the group would abide by. According to Parry, these bylaws helped make the group a highly functioning chapter with a group of student members.

In the charter, the group established a five hour minimum service requirement for all members, host engaging speaker series, as well as initiatives to reach out to underclassmen and get them involved before they’re eligible to officially become members.

“We want the whole major to be involved in what we do,” Racz said.

Professor Natalie Pifer, assistant professor of CCJ, helped put together APS administratively with Perry. They determined which students were eligible for membership, formulated the initial meetings and helped facilitate the election.

“This is going to create a lot of community on campus for our majors,” Pifer said. “CCJ is a new program but it’s growing. Having this organization of highly-motivated CCJ students working together to create community, not only for other honor students but for other CCJ students is really great.”

According to Parry, each year there is an APS national conference held around the country. Next year the conference is being held in San Antonio, and she hopes that students will be interested and able to represent URI at it.

“We may have some students with projects to present there,” Parry said. “That would be some good experience. I also did that as an undergrad.”  

Both Parry and Pifer emphasized that this is a student-run organization. The students will be the deciding factor on events, programs and potential conflicts that arise. The CCJ department helped the students get APS off the ground, but the department is giving students the ability to make this chapter what they want it to be.

“It sounds like the majority of them are more into an active organization,” Parry said. “At the first meeting we said ‘if that’s what you want, we’re here to support you in that, if you want something else, we’re here to support you in that.’ I’m really excited to see what the executive board and the membership decide to make of it.”

Racz echoed this in her goals as president and a member of the executive board.

“We said we want this to be active, we want to see people doing stuff,” Racz said.” We want to give you the base to see what else you can do in this field.”