The first two graduates of the HBU Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice program are as special as the program itself. In December 2017, Monica Vargas and Gino Manguino crossed the stage to receive the degree. Dr. Craig Ferrell, coordinator of the Criminal Justice program, was like a proud parent looking on.
Vargas is a grandmother of two who planned for years to get a degree before she was finally able to attend college. Manguino is a U.S. Army veteran who initially didn’t know what to do next after completing his military tenure. Both of them became the first to complete the HBU track, and to be prepared for a career by an all-star team of professors.
Ferrell has had an expansive career; he served as a Houston Police Department officer, a detective, and as a member of the police department’s command staff as a deputy director and general counsel for the last 20 years of his career. He was an executive board member for the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, and helped provide training for law enforcement professionals throughout the largest cities in the United States and Canada.
In addition to all of his professional involvements, he taught at Sam Houston State University. Carrying decades of experience and a multitude of accomplishments, Ferrell came to Houston Baptist University to help ensure that upcoming law and justice professionals would be highly qualified for their fields of practice.
“Students who get their degrees from HBU will have a strong ethical foundation to make exceptional police officers, judges, correctional officers, attorneys, border patrol agents and even counselors for crime victims,” Ferrell said. “A lot of people don’t realize just how diverse the field is, ranging from a local to federal level. There are so many potential jobs in the criminal justice field.”
Coming from a larger university to HBU, the smaller environment provides new opportunities for learning, Ferrell said. “In the past, I’d have an auditorium with 150 students,” he said. “Here, I have a classroom with 30. There are greater interactions with students.”
Faculty members are second-to-none, Manguino said. “For example, Dr. Ferrell is a former Houston police officer and an advisor for the HPD. Dr. John Tyler is a well-known attorney who practiced in civil law and commercial law. Dr. Marie Mater has spent her professional career as an educator, paralegal and speech writer. The professors in the department are not only knowledgeable in the subject matter, but are seasoned veterans of their areas of expertise,” he said.
In addition to stellar professors, the department brings in guest speakers with specialties in law, government and law enforcement. “The opportunity to hear guest speakers allows students to gain a first-hand perspective of what day-to-day life is like for each occupation,” Manguino said. “It gives students with an interest in the profession the chance to ask the speaker questions about it.”
A theme throughout the curriculum is Luke 6:31: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Ferrell said, “I call it the ‘Golden Training Nugget.’ Even if they make a mistake during their career, they’ll know they have always acted with the belief that what they did was lawful and proper.”
The “Golden Training Nugget” was one of the most memorable aspects of Vargas’s educational experience. “I will share and practice all that I have been given here at HBU,” she said. “I will continue to inspire as I was inspired, and to light the path lit for me. There is no better place to obtain an education both of mind and of spirit.”
It is the combination of ethical principles and real-world application with distinguished professionals which sets the program apart. “We care not just about what is legal, but about what is the right thing to do,” Ferrell said. “In this program, students aren’t just getting textbook explanations; they’re getting testimonials and models of application.”
The program is young, and its successes are just beginning. “I want to see us train up the next generation of criminal justice professionals,” Ferrell said. “It’s so neat to see students engaged and ready to make a difference.”
Visit the HBU Criminal Justice Program to learn more.