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The newest addition to Ryerson’s roster of graduate programs, the Master of Arts (MA) in Criminology and Social Justice is now accepting applications for Sept. 2017 admission.
The three-semester program, approved late last year, will teach students criminology theory grounded in understanding the barriers to social justice. It will also offer various experiential learning aspects, says Ryerson criminology professor and spokesperson for the new program, Idil Atak. She says that combination differentiates the degree from similar graduate criminology degrees in Ontario, such as those at York University and the University of Toronto.
“First of all we are stand-alone,” she says. “Many of [the competitive] programs are combined criminology and sociolegal studies and are very much theory-oriented. What makes us unique is our focus on social justice. We’re really interested in how social inequalities based on gender, sexual identity, class, etc. intersect with the criminal justice system and create further vulnerability.”
In addition to offering an optional field placement course, students will benefit from a guest seminar series from professionals in the criminology field. “It could be lawyers, social workers, NGO members, community service reps, city council, the provincial government into the classrooms and interact with our students.”
The opportunity to gain work experience is something Alex Papadatchis, a staff criminologist at Safe City Mississauga, says he would have benefitted from during both his undergraduate criminology degree at York University and his MA in Criminology at the University of Toronto.
“The theoretical aspect of university were so important five or 10 years ago, but now employers are looking for you to get in there with experience, and a lot of people simply don’t have that experience going to school full time. So I think having a co-op or internship would benefit people in finding a job afterward within that field,” she said.
However, even if Ryerson’s new MA had been offered in 2013 when Papadatchis began his graduate degree, he doesn’t think he would have picked Ryerson. “I would still go to U of T if I was accepted at both, the reason being the name recognition of U of T. They’ve had the program longer so there’s more name recognition there.”
Onur Akgul, a fourth-year politics student at Ryerson, is currently deciding whether to get a job or attend graduate school. He is considering pursuing an MA in criminology and doesn’t think name recognition is the most important factor when choosing a program.
“I don’t know how much significance there is behind name recognition unless you’re going to an Ivy League school in the U.S., like a Harvard. It’s more so how the program is set up for each individual. I think the hands-on aspect would be amazing to see what it’s like in the field before you get there.”
Atak says for the first year of Ryerson’s MA program, around 20 students are expected to be admitted. The application portal went live on the Ryerson website on Jan. 26. “We know U of T, York and Laurier are offering competitive MA programs in criminology but our program, courses and experiential learning we’ll be offering will be very much connected to social justice. I think this is something the other programs don’t offer,” Atak said.