A year ago, Eric Leslie changed his major.
This week, he graduates as part of the inaugural class of Northern Arizona University’s Indian Country criminal justice program, a first-of-its-kind online degree that addresses the confluence of the unique aspects of criminal justice in Indian Country, criminology and criminal justice theories and cultural competency relative to Indigenous peoples.
The program, a collaboration between the Applied Indigenous Studies (AIS), Justice Studies and Criminology & Criminal Justice (CCJ) departments, was a perfect fit for Leslie, who was majoring in AIS with a minor in CCJ and an emphasis in Diné (Navajo). His post-commencement plans include law school, then returning to his homeland.
“My original plan was to work with the FBI or BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) or within any of the local law enforcement agencies within border towns along Navajo Nations or within the Native nations,” he said.
It’s a small class—just Leslie and Thomasine James are graduating this week. The program was approved in April 2019 and began that fall, which didn’t leave much time for recruiting. Karen Jarratt-Snider, chair of the AIS Department, said faculty members in the collaborating departments saw a need for this type of specialized education given how complex criminal justice is for Native nations. Read more