Master’s in Criminal Justice Program Offers Opportunities for Professionals

OXFORD, Miss. – A new program at the University of Mississippi allows law enforcement professionals to pursue a master’s degree while holding onto their jobs.

The Master of Criminal Justice Executive Cohort Program is designed for students from such backgrounds as criminal justice, homeland security, public safety and the military. It offers four two-week residencies over the course of two years, which are held during intersessions on the Oxford campus, and consists of 30 hours of coursework and 6 hours of thesis or practicum.

“Some of the challenges of the program are that it’s very intense and requires a lot of work, as it should, but the rewards are that it accommodates my busy schedule better than regular classes,” said Capt. Libby Lytle of the Oxford Police Department. “It also gives me the opportunity to learn about a multitude of topics that can assist me with my present position serving the Oxford community.”

The 36-hour degree emphasizes homeland security and includes topics such as fraud, scams, intelligence planning and terrorism. These courses prepare students for work with law enforcement, private security and homeland security agencies, as well as careers as policy analysts. The curriculum also prepares graduates for doctoral programs and teaching at the community college level.

The first session began in January 2009 with 10 graduate students, said Michael Wigginton Jr., program coordinator and assistant professor of criminal justice. He said most students use their vacation time to attend class, and others are granted administrative time from their employers. While fulfilling their residencies, executive cohort students stay at The Inn at Ole Miss.

Shannon O’Toole, special agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, entered the program in August and plans to teach part time and eventually earn a doctoral degree. He said he likes that his classmates are fellow practitioners in the field.

“We all relate to each other very well, which will allow for what I can see being many long-term friendships,” O’Toole said.

For more information about the program, contact Mike Wigginton at or 662-915-1737. For more information on the Department of Legal Studies, go to