November 15, 2011
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hires about 50 new game wardens annually – if it can find that many people trained for the job. Texas Tech University and South Plains College are now partners in a new transfer program designed to fill that need.
According to Mark Wallace, chairman of Texas Tech’s Department of Natural Resources Management, the requirements to be a game warden changed about five years ago, so that people considered for the job had to have a four-year degree. They used to take people from all walks of life and put them through the department’s own training program.
“Programs around the state are associate of arts degrees in criminal justice programs. There’s no conduit for those folks to go get a 4-year degree outside of criminal justice,” said Wallace. “We proposed to create a 2+2 program to train folks for game warden positions that are not limited to Texas Parks &Wildlife; they could work for New Mexico Game & Fish, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service or a variety of other law enforcement/ wildlife-related agencies.”
Students take two years in criminal justice at SPC to obtain the associates degree, then transfer to Texas Tech for two more years in natural resources management. If they go an additional summer at SPC, they can complete certification as a peace officer in Texas. This allows them to work in many small towns but does not allow them into a lot of the four-year degree tracks.
“We are very excited to have this agreement with Texas Tech that, I think, will enhance from both our perspectives, the educational quality of those students going into the game warden field,” said Randy Robertson, department chairperson in Professional Services and Energy and assistant professor of Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement at South Plains College.
Robertson said he hopes that the partnership will spur similar agreements or programs that could potentially share their resources in other areas of criminal justice with other departments at Texas Tech.
“Texas Tech has a great program that deals with the wildlife and conservation side of this job and we have a long reputation for giving a quality education to those who want to pursue criminal justice or law enforcement, not only in the state of Texas but in many other areas of the country,” Robertson said. “Students within this program also have the opportunity to continue their education with us to facilitate their attaining their Texas Peace Officer license through our police academy if they so choose, once they have attained their degrees through Texas Tech and SPC.”
“The unique thing – and this is the biggest challenge we had getting it through the system – is that we’re accepting courses that we don’t offer here at Texas Tech for credit for one of our degrees,” Wallace said. “So we’re taking advantage of things offered at other schools to create essentially a new degree.”
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CONTACT: Mark Wallace, chairman, Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University at (806)742-1983 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Randy Robertson, chairperson, Professional Services and Energy, South Plains College, (806) 716-2342 or email@example.com.