Richie Harrell

Richie Harrell is the first graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program at Georgia Highlands College.

Richey Harrell is blazing a new trail.

He is the first graduate of the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program at Georgia Highlands College.

The program began in 2019 and Harrell’s accomplishment coincides with the college’s 50th graduation commencement, which will be celebrated virtually on July 25.

“I had been involved in law enforcement for 25 years when I decided it was time to pursue my goal of obtaining a college degree,” Harrell said. “After reaching out to my friend and Criminal Justice Professor Randy Green, I decided to begin my journey. My first goal was to obtain my associate degree in criminal justice with the plan to continue after that to obtain my bachelor’s. My ultimate end goal is to obtain my master’s degree and become a professor of criminal justice at Georgia Highlands College.”

Harrell said while obtaining his associate degree, he joined Phi Theta Kappa and was an honorary member of the Criminal Justice Club.

He credits Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Randy Green as well as Criminal Justice Professor Greg Sumner - who both teach classes at the Rome campus - for his decision to enter the program.

“I chose to attend GHC because of the reputation of the faculty and staff at the college,” Harrell said. “Dr. Greg Sumner and Professor Randy Green were instrumental in that decision due to their experience in the criminal justice field. I feel it is important for the professors that are leading the student to be experienced in the field and both of these gentlemen are not only well respected in academia but also in their respective law enforcement careers. This was a huge impact on my decision to attend GHC.”

For Harrell, enrolling at GHC provided him an opportunity to meet both a personal goal and to become an inspiration to others working to meet their goals.

“My decision to attend college was as a result of regrets that I had in my personal life,” Harrell said. “I was 50 years old and very happy in my career but regretted not attending college. I wanted to not only do this for myself, but also to set an example for the deputies that I worked with on a daily basis. I wanted them to see that if an older person could take on this challenge that it is also an achievable goal for them as well.”

Criminal Justice Professor Greg Sumner said the program is a great option for those seeking to grow and advance their career options at the entry level or while working for a law enforcement agency.

“The need for more officers with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree has continued to grow, meaning more law enforcement agencies are requiring a bachelor’s degree to obtain executive level ranks to include Chief of Police,” Sumner said. “The International and Georgia Associations of Chiefs of Police both recommend any agency hiring a Chief of Police to hire someone with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, preferably in criminal justice.”

In addition to all courses being eight weeks in length and being offered online, students have full access to GHC facilities as well as instructors for on-campus and online conferencing. The program also offers college credit through the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) for law enforcement officers and prior military.

“Students enrolled in the program have a dedicated advisor to assist them with course registration and long-range planning,” Online Advising Coordinator and eMajor Liaison Leslie Terrell-Payne said. “Our Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree is well below the average cost for an online degree program compared to many of the top schools providing similar programs. Tuition is just $199 per credit hour, while most online programs charge $300 per credit hour and higher.”

Currently, the program enrolls more than 40 students and is growing due to its popularity and job outlook.

“This program has great support from GHC and the University System of Georgia,” Sumner said. “It has great faculty who have a passion to help and inspire our students to obtain a bachelor’s degree and make positive changes in the field of criminal justice. There is no better time than now to further your education; our communities are relying upon it.”

The program is being offered completely online at Georgia Highlands College, as a part of the University System of Georgia (USG) eMajor initiative.

The USG eMajor program has delivered flexible, online degree programs through multiple USG institutions since 2012. The purpose of eMajor is to provide affordable, quality, innovative, high-demand programs through traditional institutions, such as GHC.

“eMajor degrees are designed specifically for non-traditional students and include several benefits and student success resources in addition to those already available through GHC,” GHC Vice President for Academic Affairs Dana Nichols said. “eMajor programs are ideal for those who need to balance work and family responsibilities with their pursuit of higher education.”

For more information on the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program, visit https://sites.highlands.edu/criminal-justice/

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