Professor Hanson gives global perspective of criminal justice

By Anne Bradley, News Reporter

Every day, society moves closer to a global perspective, and the Criminal Justice department at Northern Michigan University is setting the stage for international awareness and experience. Professor Bob Hanson is spearheading efforts to increase collaboration and cooperation between NMU and UNISA, the University of South Africa.  He recently returned from a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, where the university is located.

“I think the Criminal Justice department is close to being the first at NMU to seriously completely internationalize its curriculum,” said Professor Hanson. “We are incorporating international concepts and ideas in all kinds of classes, including criminology, and my classes involving investigations and judicial functions. Not only do we have a freestanding class where international is in the title, we are embedding it into our curriculum, and encouraging students to think globally, act locally.” 

Trips made in the past two years were to encourage links between UNISA and NMU, and the main purpose of these trips is to establish contacts with academics in the field of loss prevention and increase cooperation between the two institutions. Professor Hanson explained, “Within UNISA’s Criminology department they have a program in security management, which is very close to our loss prevention program, so they are interested in our online program.” In addition to NMU’s Master in Criminal Justice degree, Loss Prevention Management was the newest addition to the criminal justice roster of programs offered, completely online. 

“UNISA has students all over the world, and an active student population of 136,000, but most of their students are correspondents. They have on campus programs too, but mostly online programs,” said Hanson. “We were discussing ways in which we could provide opportunities for research and for our universities to work together.”

As the University of South Africa is a sister university to NMU, closer ties with the academic community could lead to more opportunities for studying abroad and for international work experiences. Professor Hanson said it was his belief that studying and working abroad was a life-changing experience. “There was a student from Chicago who went over there and worked in a prison, and it transformed his life. When you talk about traveling 10,000 and 7 time zones, even though most people speak a form of English, it’s a very different experience,” he said. “If you go to Spain and stay in a dorm in Spain, there’s still a lot of American culture in Europe and you can do the same things you would do here, probably more.”

At this point, Hanson expects further opportunities for academia, internships and jobs in several different fields. “There are opportunities to work with NGOs, which are private non-profits, and they’re involved in the area we are working with,” he explained. “There would also be opportunities for people wanting to work in social service and nursing.” He also expects the Criminal Justice department to look into the possibility of having adjunct instructors from South Africa teach an online course for NMU, which would be the first in NMU’s history.

Hanson concluded by singing the praises of an international experience. “I think we’re at a point in American society where we recognize our own interdependence with other countries and societies; and as an educator I have seen the transformation that occurs when students have an opportunity to immerse themselves in an international experience even for a very brief time,” he said. “It’s amazing the power of individuals to get things accomplished.”

For more information about the Loss Prevention Management program, programs in conjunction with the University of South Africa, or the Criminal Justice department, contact Professor Bob Hanson at, or visit


(Left to right: Dr. Johan Prinsloo, Criminology Department Head, Prof. Kris Pillay, Director of Criminal Justice Program, Professor Hanson, Dr. Anthony Minnar, Security Management Program, Prof. Willie Clack, Corrections Management all from University of South Africa)