EDINBURG - Kelly Gray, a substitute teacher for the Mission school district, is currently looking to make a career change with the help of The University of Texas-Pan American's master of science in criminal justice program.
"I'm wanting to teach criminal justice at the university level," Gray said. "I've always held an interest for law enforcement investigation, and now that UTPA offers a master's in criminal justice, it's made the process a whole lot easier for me."
Gray who received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice in 1995 from UT Pan American, said she always intended to pursue a master's in criminal justice but was faced with difficult obstacles.
"I was so glad when UTPA started offering the program," she said. "Before then my only option was to attend Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and that would have made things very difficult for me."
Gray said she would have had to wait a few years and save for expenses before making the move to Huntsville.
"I would have had to leave my family and pay quite a bit in living expenses and tuition," she said. "But now I can start immediately at UTPA, which made my life a whole lot easier."
Rosie Delgado, who works at the Hidalgo County Community Supervision and Correctional Department, agreed with Gray, saying that the new program has opened up new avenues for her as well.
"At the working level that I'm at right now, a master's in criminal justice won't really help me much, but in the long run later on down the line, it will come in really handy," Delgado said.
Delgado received her bachelor's degree in criminal justice from UTPA as well, and is wanting to pursue a career at the federal level.
"The program is not easy," Delgado said. "I've been in the program for one semester, and so far, it has been a challenge for me the entire time."
UT Pan American has offered the cooperative degree program with The University of Texas at Brownsville since the fall semester of 1998.
Mark Dantzker, graduate program director for the Department of Criminal Justice at UTPA, said the program was created to meet the increasing demand in the Rio Grande Valley.
"There are so many people in the Rio Grande Valley who have bachelor's degrees in criminal justice," said Dantzker, "but the only way they can be promoted at work is with a master's degree."
The 36-hour program was approved for UT Pan American by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board with the understanding that the program would be conducted in cooperation with UT-Brownsville.
According to Dantzker, courses are available at UT-Brownsville as well as UTPA. Students interested in entering the criminal justice master's program at UTPA must apply to both the graduate school and the criminal justice program.
Students applying must also have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field, a grade point average of 2.5 in their last undergraduate semester, and a minimum score of 800 on the Graduate Record Examination.
For more information, contact Dantzker at 956/381-2339.