Sociology department launches criminology major


Calvin Sociology Department

Students now have the opportunity to study the science behind crime.

Crime is coming to Calvin in the best possible way: the department of sociology now offers a major in criminology. 

The major’s development process began in 2019, 20 years after the criminal justice major was eliminated from Calvin. Despite setbacks in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the major was able to debut earlier than expected. 

“It took two years total to get it off the ground,” said sociology professor Elisha Marr, who now serves as the primary advisor for the criminology major. “It was approved pretty quickly. We thought that it would get launched in fall of 2022, but we’re happy that we’re actually able to get this off the ground in 2021.”   

After a year of planning and another year of application creation, the major is now available for students to register for at the Center for Student Success. The department is also developing a minor, which is set to launch in 2022. 

Students in the criminology major won’t be collecting fingerprints or performing autopsies anytime soon. Rather, the major stresses critical thinking development in order to grasp criminology principles rather than technical approaches through a liberal arts lense. 

“It’s an emphasis on science more than an emphasis on understanding the system as it is,” said Marr. “It’s more of an emphasis on why we call certain things a crime and why they have the consequences and stigmas they do rather than simply saying ‘this is what this says in this code, and this is what you do about it.’”

To complete the 39-credit major, students must take 21 elective credit hours spanning at least three disciplines and six required courses offered through the sociology department. The major is interdisciplinary in the sense that elective course offerings come from a variety of departments, ranging from political science to religion to communications.

All courses required for the major are currently offered at Calvin, with the exception of a sociology course focusing on corrections and incarceration. Sociology 333 is set to make its debut in the spring of 2022.

The major also includes a criminology-focused internship sponsored by the sociology department. Though internships in the sociology department are typically held in the spring, students with approval from program advisors are permitted to complete their internships in the fall and summer. “One of the strengths we have [in the sociology department] is the connections we have with organizations relating to criminology in the Grand Rapids area,” said sociology professor Mark Mulder during an informational meeting on Oct. 28. 

Marr emphasized that students interested in the criminology major are not obligated to pursue a career in law enforcement, since the degree’s interdisciplinary nature prepares them to engage in a variety of fields.

“We tend to see criminology as a law enforcement-related field of study, but this major positions you to go into a variety of fields. You can go into law and policy making, working with social services, even journalism. Don’t be limited by the thinking that criminology means that you have to work in law enforcement,” Marr said during the meeting. 

aStudents interested in learning more about the criminology major can email Professor Marr at [email protected] for more information.