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Viking Spotlight: James Bacigalupo, '10, '18G, Criminal Justice

Bacigalupo shares his experience in Salem State's Criminal Justice program

James Bacigalupo, '10, '18G
Major: MS, criminal justice, criminology concentration
Hometown: Winthrop, MA

What attracted you to Salem State's criminal justice program?

I liked that Salem State allows you to enroll in a course before applying to the program. I took advantage of that option and ended up really enjoying the class.

Salem State is relatively close to where I live, so the commute was manageable. The course times worked with my work schedule, and there were online options as well. I was already familiar with many of the instructors from my time as an undergrad. These factors made Salem State an attractive choice.

Where did you earn your bachelor's degree, and what did you study?

I earned my bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Salem State in 2010. I enjoyed my time as an undergrad and really liked the professors. I was glad to see that many of them were still there when I was looking for a graduate program.

What were the student-faculty relationships like?

The student-faculty relationships were great. All of the faculty made themselves available for office hours if requested. They were all very reasonable, considering many of the students worked full-time jobs, which could sometimes create scheduling conflicts. 

Did you feel you could balance graduate school while managing your professional, personal responsibilities, and commitments?

I think it comes down to time management. It is important to make sure that time is set aside for classwork. I was able to take one class; other times, I would take two classes a semester, depending on how much I had going on in my personal life at the time. I work full-time as a corrections officer, and there have been times where I needed to stay an extra shift due to staff shortages. Those unforeseen circumstances definitely posed a bit of a challenge, but I was able to get through it.

Did you have the opportunity to participate in any out-of-class opportunities that allowed you to apply your skills?

I remember reaching out to the program chair, hoping that she could set me up with a faculty member involved in research. I was interested in research because I knew that I may want to apply to a PhD program and was interested in learning more. She put me in contact with Professor Kevin Borgeson, who I had taken many classes with as an undergrad. We both have similar interests, and I learned a lot from him.

Professor Borgeson ended up being the chair for my thesis on terrorist propaganda. We remain friends to this day, and I am now collaborating with him on a writing project focused on online political extremism.

I also had the privilege to work as a research assistant for Professor Joseph Gustafson. I assisted Professor Gustafson in his role, supporting the Shannon Community Safety Initiative, which aimed to address Springfield's gang and youth violence issues. Like with Professor Borgeson, I learned a lot from Professor Gustafson, and he let me pick his brain on a wide range of topics.  

Why was continuing your education important to you?

Continuing my education was important because I one day hope to work in academia. 

Do you feel that earning your MS helped you advance your career? 

I do. I definitely learned a lot in the program, which allowed me to pursue a PhD in criminology. For me, deciding to do the thesis option was very helpful because I learned a lot about research methods. Hopefully, it will someday turn into a career in academia. 

Do you feel employers respect your degree from Salem State in the field?

I do. I have met many very successful Salem State alumni from across multiple fields. I believe that the school is highly regarded, especially for certain programs, including criminal justice. 

Where has your degree taken you since graduation? 

I am currently a criminology PhD student at UMass Lowell at the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies. I am also still employed as a corrections officer at the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department.

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