Criminal Justice and RN-BSN Programs Offer Non-traditional Students Opportunities for Growth

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Over the last few years, The University of Olivet has introduced two new programs aimed at adult professionals. The RN-BSN and online criminal justice professional (CJP) degree programs offer students the opportunity to grow in their studies while seeking advancement in their fields. Catering to the specific needs of professionals, these programs seek to develop well-rounded, accomplished graduates.
New Possibilities
Launched in January 2018, the CJP degree program provides law enforcement professionals the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree, which is often required for career advancement.
The CJP program caters specifically to working professionals, with special consideration made for their full schedules and hectic lifestyles. Paul Brentar, Charlotte Police Department chief of police, appreciates the accessibility of the program.
“Those within the criminal justice field rarely work ‘normal’ schedules with unscheduled overtime, court appearances and more,” Brentar said. “Because this program is all online, professionals can work when it is convenient for them to further their education, which opens up possibilities that may not otherwise be available to them. I can attest to this. Without this program, becoming a chief of police would not have been possible for me.”
Brentar is only one of many success stories. The first cohort of students graduated in May 2019 and are working at the Calhoun County, Eaton County and Ingham County sheriff’s offices, among other law enforcement institutions.
Part of the Family
The University of Olivet respects the expertise students bring to the CJP program and seeks to build upon that expertise.
“The University of Olivet acknowledges the extensive training these officers undertake in their roles as police practitioners and celebrates their knowledge,” Regina Armstrong, Ph.D., director of the criminal justice program and associate professor of criminal justice, said.
Olivet’s liberal arts education rounds out criminal justice education and exposes students to different subject matter. The program embraces the ideas of the College’s founders and focuses on student engagement and a personalized educational experience.
“Olivet is known for the relationships built with students, and the CJP program is no different,” Armstrong said. “Professors know each student by name and interact with them on a personal level. As the director of the criminal justice program, I make a point to speak with every CJP student on a weekly basis. This may be by phone, text or email. It is important to me that they know and feel that they are a part of the Olivet family.”
Flexibility in a Liberal Arts Education
In the ever-changing health care field, the demand for nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees is high. Olivet’s RN-BSN program allows students the opportunity to meet that demand while moving forward in their careers.
“Most hospitals and clinics are requiring that RNs earn their BSN within five years of hire,” Kate Jones, assistant professor of nursing, said. “This can be very difficult while working and maintaining a home life. This program is designed to guide students through the program while holding the students to high standards. The flexibility of the course delivery, as well as the relationships with faculty, provides the type of support needed by a busy adult learner.”
The flexibility in course delivery includes three options to learn: face-to-face, online synchronously and online asynchronously. Each week, students can choose which delivery model works best for them; they are not committed to attending just one way of class. The combination of course delivery methods makes Olivet’s RN-BSN program unique and helps students achieve a work-life balance.
Beyond the Bedside
Nicole Stone-Matako, a member of the first RN-BSN program cohort, explains another distinctive aspect of the program — the liberal arts component.
“Liberal arts education is becoming more of a necessity to nursing because nurses are not just doing nursing tasks anymore,” Stone-Matako said. “Nursing is also how you use emotional intelligence to interact, making ethical decisions in a very political world. Nursing takes on other worldviews and theories and forms ethical, political and culturally-related decisions. Nursing is an art form and a science in itself, but it is the accumulation of many fields of study combined. Nursing now pours over into areas of life that were not considered part of nursing in the past. Patients want and need a well-rounded nurse who is able to draw from many knowledge bases while critically thinking so that multiple facets of care can be addressed.”
Lorraine Manier, DNP, director of the nursing program and assistant professor of nursing, reflects on the importance of the program’s values and goals within a liberal arts focus.
“The RN-BSN program was designed to help students grow and develop intellectually, personally and professionally,” Manier said. “The focus on the program is to provide students with the critical thinking skills needed to be leaders at the bedside of patients and beyond. Besides that focus, the program is embedded in the rich traditions The University of Olivet embraces. Relationship-based learning remains a heightened goal for all faculty and staff.”
Non-Traditional is Tradition at Olivet
Adult professionals may be considered non-traditional students; however, finding innovative ways to teach and meet the needs of any student who desires an education is tradition at Olivet.
Community Support Drives RN-BSN Program
As of September 2019, the RN-BSN program had received $380,000 from four Battle Creek area foundations. These gifts have allowed the program to grow and flourish over the past few years.
“I am grateful for the generosity of the Battle Creek granting foundations that have afforded The University of Olivet the opportunity to meet the needs of health care institutions, patients and students,” Manier said. “We look forward to continuing to grow and serve the Battle Creek area for many years to come.”


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