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UHV criminal justice students begin honors society chapter

June 16, 2012 at 1:16 a.m.

J. Keith Akins

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Contact Akins at 281-275-8823 or akinsk@uhv.edu.

The formation of the University of Houston-Victoria chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma will give criminal justice students a chance to hear from speakers, attend a national conference and hold group events.

UHV recently received its charter for an Alpha Phi Sigma chapter. The 10 founding members will begin holding monthly meetings and activities in the fall.

As a national criminal justice honors society, Alpha Phi Sigma recognizes academic excellence of undergraduate and graduate criminal justice students. The goals of the organization are to honor and promote academic excellence, community service, educational leadership and unity.

J. Keith Akins, a UHV assistant professor of criminal justice, said there are several advantages to starting a chapter at the university.

"It ties our department into what's going on in the field through the national magazine and newsletter," he said. "For the members, it can help on applications for graduate schools or on job applications."

In the spring, Jena West, a criminal justice major who hopes to eventually go to law school, asked Akins if there was an organization that students studying in the field could join. Akins had served as faculty director for an Alpha Phi Sigma chapter at a prior job, so Akins and West went to work applying for a charter and recruiting students to join at UHV.

West, who will be a senior this fall, thought criminal justice majors were missing out on academic and networking opportunities that students in other majors took part in through honors societies.

"I think this will bring criminal justice majors together and be beneficial," she said.

Local law enforcement officials, such as police officers and attorneys, will be invited to speak at chapter meetings this fall.

"This will be an opportunity for career questions and answers, and to hear about some of the issues and controversies in criminal justice," Akins said.

Alpha Phi Sigma also holds a conference during the annual Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference. Students get a chance to compete against other chapters at the conference, Akins said. There also is a writing competition that allows winners to get their work published and a quiz bowl.

Alpha Phi Sigma began in 1942 at Washington State University. In 1976, the executive board of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences designated Alpha Phi Sigma as a national honor society. At the time, Alpha Phi Sigma had only 14 chapters. There are now more than 360 chapters, including chapters at UH-Downtown and UH-Clear Lake.

Undergraduate members must be majoring or minoring in criminal justice, have completed at least four criminal justice classes, have a grade-point average of 3.2 and rank in the top 35 percent of their class. Graduate members must have a minimum 3.4 GPA and rank in the top 25 percent of their class.

Rick Harrington, chair of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Division in the UHV School of Arts and Sciences, said having an Alpha Phi Sigma chapter at the university will provide students with a reward for their academic achievements.

"This is a significant addition to the criminal justice program," he said. "This honor society will open up some terrific new opportunities for our students. I commend Dr. Akins and the criminal justice students involved for founding the new chapter and look forward to future events and activities."

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