CUNY Community College Leaders Discuss The CUNY Justice Academy At John Jay

CUNY Community College Leaders Discuss The CUNY Justice Academy At John Jay

CUNY Community College Leaders Discuss The CUNY Justice Academy At John Jay

“The CUNY Justice Academy has become an essential pipeline, making sure that students coming from community colleges—particularly those focused in the justice fields—have a pathway and clear roadmap for obtaining their four-year degree at John Jay College,” said President Karol V. Mason at the CUNY Justice Academy (CJA) Summit on March 18, 2019. This convening brought together leadership from seven CUNY community college partners. Their objective: to review CJA’s progress, look forward to CJA’s future goals, and reaffirm their commitment to serving CJA students.

John Jay leadership at the CUNY Justice Academy Summit
John Jay leadership at the CUNY Justice Academy Summit

“CUNY Justice Academy students are more likely to get their associate’s degree in two years, allowing them to maximize their TAP eligibility.”—Karol V. Mason

The Justice Academy was established in 2009 by former John Jay President Jeremy Travis with the purpose of creating a specific pathway for CUNY community college students to follow in pursuit of their bachelor’s degree at John Jay. “Students in the CUNY Justice Academy know right from the beginning that they’re John Jay students,” said Mason to the summit attendees. “If they follow the Justice Academy curriculum, once they’ve completed their associate’s degree, they’re on a pathway to getting their bachelor’s degree at John Jay.” Mason went on to say that CJA students have a sense of pride that propels them forward, improving their long-term success rates. “CUNY Justice Academy students are more likely to get their associate’s degree in two years, allowing them to maximize their TAP eligibility,” said Mason. “And, once they get to John Jay, their graduation and retention rates are stronger than those transfer students that didn’t come through the Justice Academy. That’s why I think the CUNY Justice Academy is something special that we should all be proud of and support to our fullest extent.”

President Karol V. Mason speaking to CUNY community college leadership
President Karol V. Mason speaking to CUNY community college leadership

“I think we need to do this more in the other academic programs, for all of our CUNY students so that when they start at the community college, there’s a clear pathway for them to any of the senior colleges.”—Thomas A. Isekenegbe, President of Bronx Community College

This pride in CJA students was a sentiment that many of the CUNY community college leaders shared. “We know when CUNY Justice Academy students start with us, they see a clear pathway. And I think that’s really important,” said Thomas A. Isekenegbe, President of Bronx Community College (BCC). “I think we need to do this more in the other academic programs, for all of our CUNY students, so that when they start at the community college, there’s a clear pathway for them to any of the senior colleges. I think the John Jay folks have done a great job with this academy.”

Thomas A. Isekenegbe
Thomas A. Isekenegbe

“Visiting the John Jay website is always a favorite activity in my first-year classes with CUNY Justice Academy students. They see the opportunities that lie ahead of them.” —Jill Kehoe, Criminal Justice Professor, LaGuardia Community College

Working first-hand with CJA students at LaGuardia Community College in the Criminal Justice Department, Professor Jill Kehoe noted that CJA students feel excited instead of anxious about going to a senior college. “Visiting the John Jay website is always a favorite activity in my first-year classes with CUNY Justice Academy students. They see the opportunities that lie ahead of them,” said Kehoe. “There isn’t a question mark about, ‘What school am I going to go to?’, or ‘What lies ahead of me?’ They know where they’re going. They see it on the website. They look at the curriculum. They look at the professors, and they get really excited.”

Jill Kehoe
Jill Kehoe

“When students get into the CUNY Justice Academy, there is certainty from the first day.” —Yi Li, Provost John Jay College

At the summit, John Jay Provost Yi Li highlighted CJA facts and statistics for the group. During his presentation Li showed that CJA has grown dramatically over 10 years, with over 10,000 students enrolled across all seven institutions, with five interconnected degree programs: Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, Fraud Examination, Computer Science, and Human Services and Community Justice. “When students get into the CUNY Justice Academy, there is certainty from the first day. There is a knowledge that all they need to do is to work hard, complete the program, and they will have an associate’s degree, and they will come to John Jay. This is a very strong selling point,” said Li. “In terms of the distribution of majors, the largest portion is into our Criminal Justice degree, and the second is Forensic Science, and the third is Fraud Examination.” Li went on to note that Fraud Examination is a relatively new major, starting only four years ago with about 100 students. But those numbers are steadily climbing—three years ago there were 200 Fraud Examination students, and last year there were 300 Fraud Examination students. “It really is a program that continues to multiply and attract students. Our students in this program graduate at a higher rate than other transfer students, and they gain a very solid career path,” said Li.

Yi Li
Yi Li

“I think advisors should be imbued with more information about social service resources, so they have the knowledge to help students on the spot.” — Claudia Schrader, President of Kingsborough Community College

The goal of the summit was to share thoughts on CJA, assess challenges, and talk about strategies. The group covered topics such as communication, outreach, planning, and advising, and they came away with new ideas and concepts to consider and enact. On the topic of advisement, Claudia Schrader, President of Kingsborough Community College, had a new way of thinking. “We know, that students can’t study or go to class if they’re thinking about how they’re going to pay their rent, or not get evicted, or if there’s a domestic violence issue at home. I think that advisors should be imbued with more information about social service resources, so they have the knowledge to help students on the spot,” said Schrader. “I think we need to start rethinking the role of an academic advisor. When I was at BCC, we stopped calling them academic advisors and we started calling them success coaches, because you’re looking at the whole student, and not just academics.”

Claudia Schrader
Claudia Schrader 

President Mason picked up on Schrader’s comment and gave it her own take. “That’s interesting because I’ve been thinking about the reverse permutation,” said Mason. “I’ve been talking to our Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs about how do we train our counselors about academic advisement. What this speaks to is making sure that people cross-train and understand each other’s fields.” The CJA discussions continued with a focus on creating specific strategic plans aimed at strengthening the pipeline from CUNY community colleges to John Jay College. One heartfelt testament to CJA’s effectiveness came from Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). Francesco Bongiovanni ’19, a BMCC alumnus and CJA student, transitioned to John Jay College and was accepted into the Criminal Justice BA/MA program. Bongiovanni is not only on track to graduate from John Jay this spring, but he’s also planning to return to BMCC as an adjunct professor in the fall. That full-circle success is in no small part due to the CUNY Justice Academy. 

More scenes from the event:

guests looking at charts

Speakers at the CUNY Justice Academy

speaker at the CUNY Justice Academy

Sumaya Villanueva at the CUNY Justice Academy

guest speakers at the CUNY Justice Academy

President Mason, Provost Li and Dara Byrnes at the CUNY Justice Academy

Guest speakers at the CUNY Justice Academy

Sumaya Villanueva speaking at the CUNY Justice Academy

Claudia Schrader speaking at the CUNY Justice Academy

Guests at the CUNY Justice Academy