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University of Valley Forge on the Upswing

New innovative criminal justice program linked to RV renovation of buildings on campus.

Since 1939, Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, has experienced dramatic progress, including a recent change in academic status to the University of Valley Forge. Along with this change came the addition of a new criminal justice major.  

Kenneth Lang, a 25-year retired veteran of law enforcement, is an assistant professor at the university and director of the criminal justice program, which began in August 2014.  

The program consists of three components – practicums, leadership, and restorative justice – and has been designed by Lang with more of a hands-on approach to stand out from the typical criminal justice program.  

During practicums, students learn basic investigative techniques while working through a series of crime scenes using various scientific methods such as DNA, fingerprint analysis, trace analysis, and biology reports.  

The leadership component is tied into the practicums as students investigate crimes as a coordinated group with a leader, much as a sergeant would be orchestrating his detectives throughout an investigation, according to Lang.  

The restorative justice course is a new concept that Lang says is peeking over the horizon in the realms of law enforcement. He says it incorporates a theory of justice based on biblical principles that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior through which victims take an active role in the process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions.  

Daily lectures characteristically open in prayer, and Lang says he often parallels lessons with God’s Word to help his students in their daily lives.  

As he prepares students to go into a field that he says is ready for harvest, he also shares what he learned throughout his career.  

“I realized that the people that I’m arresting are God’s creation just as I am,” Lang says. “We’re all God’s children and we all need help, even in our darkest hour.”  

John Calsin, an early graduate of the university, says this is an important addition to the curriculum and is worthy and necessary in this fallen world.  

“A first responder may be the last person somebody hears before dying and is whispering words that will help send them into a God-filled eternity rather than a God-less eternity,” he says.  

With the help of longtime friends Dave and Barb Small of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Calsin and his wife, Carol, have established a scholarship to help needy students in this major and have raised approximately $4,000 in seed money. They hope other contributors will provide at least $25,000 to make it a self-funded endowment.  

The scholarship honors members of RV Ministries who have helped renovate nearly all buildings on campus and is named for RV volunteers Ed and Millie Evans.  

Calsin remembers the overwhelming needs and the deplorable condition of many of the buildings and grounds when he stepped onto campus in 1979. He says loss of heating and cold showers occurred repeatedly. With its modern campus, new academic status, and addition of a criminal justice program, Calsin says it’s truly a miracle what God has done at the school.  

Evans, a U.S. Army veteran and retired insurance agent, says the amount of work required when he first came to the campus in 1997 overwhelmed him.  

“I didn’t know anything about construction, but the Lord took a willing vessel and gave me all the knowledge that I needed to do this work,” Evans says.  

Undaunted, he took on his first of many major projects: renovation of two dormitories now known as Damiani Hall and Beisel Hall.  

During the next 15 summers, the couple worked on nearly every building on campus, including completely refurbishing the faculty building, chapel, and dining room; repurposing Hartwick House into a 10-apartment dormitory; gutting the old bookstore to create The Anvil student center; renovating the music department; and converting buildings from steam heat to central air conditioning.  

According to Dan Mortensen, vice president of development for the university, RV volunteers have saved Valley Forge more than $3 million.

Shannon M. Nass

Shannon Nass and her husband, Greg, are credentialed ministers with the Assemblies of God and live in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, with their twin daughters, Naomi and Charlotte. Shannon is a freelance writer and special education teacher who also serves as coordinator for Beyond Survival Ministries, a Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading the gospel.