Restorative justice focus enhances Penn College major
Mirroring trends in the field of human services, Pennsylvania College of Technology has expanded its human services major to include significant emphasis on restorative justice. The major’s new name — human services and restorative justice — took effect this semester.
“This revision reflects changes in the field and represents our commitment to providing the most up-to-date, relevant and marketable degrees for our students,” said Craig Miller, department head of social services and humanities and associate professor of history/political science.
Restorative justice aims to transform communities, schools and criminal justice with innovative approaches, and Penn College’s major prepares graduates to be leaders and advocates in this broad and evolving field. Through skills developed in counseling, crisis intervention and case management, graduates learn to provide supportive and preventive services in a range of roles: Social services caseworkers, drug and alcohol counselors, youth development specialists and restorative justice coordinators, as well as probation, parole, police and corrections officers.
Freshman Zach Miller, of Montoursville, chose the human services and restorative justice major following the advice of a number of law enforcement personnel, including family members.
“Criminal justice is a system that aims to make sure the people within the system don’t commit crimes again, but if we look at the statistics on that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 68 percent of offenders end up back in prison after being let out,” Zach Miller said. “Many of these offenders have issues such as drug addictions, mental health problems, etc. The criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of this system, where the restorative justice system does.”
With the objective of becoming a third-generation Pennsylvania State Police trooper, Zach Miller added, “I really believe this degree I’m pursuing will help me in my future career path so that I can meet my main goal: To make a difference for those who cannot see things differently. All my life, I have had a passion for helping others.”
Jerod Corman, adult probation officer: reentry services with the Lycoming County Adult Probation Office, earned a bachelor of science degree in applied human services from Penn College in 2013.
“My experience as an applied human services student was nothing short of excellent,” Corman said. “The curriculum and professors challenged me to grow as a human being and gave me a solid base of professional skills that I utilize daily as a law enforcement officer.”
The college’s human services major has produced a long and successful track record for 35 years. The college first offered its associate of applied science degree in human services in 1984, when Penn College was Williamsport Area Community College. Ten years later, the bachelor of science degree was added due to feedback from area employers, alumni, faculty and students, agreeing that higher levels of technical and professional proficiencies were necessary for advancement in the field.
“Our human services graduates remain in high demand, and a large portion of graduates from our programs choose careers aligned to restorative justice fields,” Craig Miller said. “Industry leaders routinely suggest that Penn College human services graduates are well-prepared for a wide range of treatment fields, including restorative justice.”
In addition to an associate of applied science and a bachelor of science degrees in human services and restorative justice, Penn College offers an online competency credential in chemical dependency. The educational offerings are a response to industry and societal needs and aim to educate and empower professionals to make transformative changes in their workplaces and communities.