Special Opportunities

An Elmhurst education is about much more than courses and credits. Our focus on the real-world application of what you’re learning helps you prepare for a meaningful and rewarding career.

Independent Field Work | Independent Research | Independent Study | Sociology Capstone | Departmental Honor Societies | Service Learning

Independent Field Work

Working with a faculty member and a partnering agency, students may design field experiences that enable them to work directly within an organization while closely studying its structure. Some examples of students’ field experiences:

  • Helping investigate cases of alleged child abuse and family dysfunction with the Department of Children and Family Services
  • Working with middle-school students alongside a school social worker
  • Working with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to improve community relations and policing
  • Organizing case information for the Criminal Investigations Unit of the Illinois Department of Revenue
  • Training as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children

Independent Research

For an independent research project, students design and execute a formal research proposal using questionnaires, interviews, field observation, content analysis, available data or an experiment to answer specific hypotheses. Students have the opportunity to present their research at the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area Student Research Symposium or the Elmhurst University Research and Performance Showcase, and to submit it for publication in Investigations, the College’s journal for student work.

Here are some examples of independent research topics:

  • Attitudes toward cultural diversity on campus
  • Transgender prison populations
  • Attitudes about juvenile crime
  • Neighborhood inequality in Chicago
  • Educational experience of immigrant students
  • Media portrayals of racial stereotypes
  • Experiences of mothers at work

Independent Study

This type of study primarily involves library readings on a student-selected topic or issue and may include data collection among persons who are involved with the issue (supervisors, therapists, workers, victims or participants). The work is an extension of a topic from a previously completed regular course in sociology, social work or criminal justice.

Sociology Capstone

In the capstone course, students reflect on how their sociology or criminal justice major has prepared them for a future career. Students work on building resumes for job searches or completing applications for graduate school. Students may also have the opportunity to talk with former graduates about the career options available to them.

In addition, students also participate in service learning projects where they will have the opportunity to use the skills they have learned to help organizations in nearby communities.

Departmental Honor Societies

Pi Gamma Mu Social Science Honor Society

Elmhurst maintains an active local chapter of Pi Gamma Mu, the national social science honor society, which encourages excellence in the social sciences. The society not only recognizes scholarship achievements, but also offers enrichment opportunities through service projects, publications, scholarships, and lectureship grants.

Junior and senior sociology or criminal justice students become eligible to join when they meet the following criteria: upper 35 percent of their class, a grade average of B or better, and 20 semester hours completed in social science courses.

Alpha Phi Sigma Criminal Justice Honor Society

The Criminal Justice program has an active chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the National Criminal Justice Honor Society. The goals of Alpha Phi Sigma are to honor and promote academic excellence, community service, educational leadership, and unity within the field of criminal justice professionals and students. Our local chapter focuses on career exploration and preparing students to enter their chosen profession. If you’re interested in joining, talk with a criminal justice faculty member about the requirements.

Service Learning

Some courses incorporate a service-learning component through which students acquire academic knowledge through benevolent service, critical reflection and discussions in groups. Past service projects include tutoring disadvantaged grade school students, helping Cook County Jail inmates complete their GEDs, teaching English to new immigrants, helping children with differing abilities in developmental programs, and working in homeless shelters.

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