MA Criminal Justice grad Brian Young wins UFV Governor General’s gold medal

Brian YoungBrian Young had a goal. The Kamloops-based youth probation officer wanted to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice, but he also wanted the experience to have as little impact on his family life as possible.

“I wanted to do the best academic work that I could, but I also wanted to set it up so my family wouldn’t notice, or would hardly notice, that I was in school.”

So 10 pm to 2 am became study time for Young, who chose the University of the Fraser Valley’s MA in Criminal Justice program for his graduate studies.

His strategy worked. He continued to work full time as a youth probation officer for the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, and to be an active and contributing father, husband, and community coach, but also travelled to Abbotsford one weekend a month for intensive classes with his MA cohort group.

Young graduates on June 10 and will be crossing the stage as the Governor General’s gold medal winner for earning the highest grade point average (4.25) among graduating master’s-level students this year.

“It’s very humbling to receive this medal,” says Young. “I’m under no illusion that there aren’t other good candidates out there. There were some pretty impressive leaders in their respective fields in my group. I figured out early on that I wanted to put out the best product I could and the grades I got were a positive reinforcement for the effort. Receiving the medal is even more validation for the effort and work and time away from family. I had the attitude that if you’re going to take on the program you should put in the best effort you can, and take it seriously.”

Young chose to focus on the application of different ‘intensive supervision’ models for high-risk young offenders, doing a comparative study of how this model is applied in different jurisdictions throughout Canada and internationally. His research was directly related to his work as a youth probation officer.

“Doing this research for my master’s degree allowed me to look at my field of work in an academic way and study issues more deeply that we can in the everyday work world. It was also interesting to return to academics with experience in the field. You tend to feel that you have more authority in your discipline than when studying as an undergraduate with little experience.”

And Young wasn’t alone in bringing experience to the table. He was surrounded by a cohort of experienced professionals in his classmates.

“That was a bonus I didn’t really think about before I started the program. I got to meet people from a variety of disciplines and professional backgrounds. It made for a very well rounded experience and lots of deliberation and debate in our lectures and classes.”

The ‘intensive support and supervision’ model that Young researched is an enhanced probation model used on high-risk young offenders. Through his research he discovered that there’s no one way of applying this model.

“There are many initiatives across the globe and within our own country, and there are also many diverse ways of applying this model. Each province does it in its own unique way and it even differs from region to region. Some countries are very prescriptive, and others are not. We use the sentence within our community and in youth custody and I was curious about what it looked like in other places.”

Young may have finished his master’s degree, but he hasn’t quenched his thirst for knowledge.

“Now I’d like to take the data on young offenders who have been through the intensive support and supervision program and compare it to those who have not.”

He has also started to teach locally, at Thompson Rivers University. He’s teaching a course in law and social services for the Faculty of Social Work.

Young has high praise for the faculty in the MA in Criminal Justice program.

“All the professors at UFV provided assistance throughout the program, helping us determine how to approach our project, how to research questions, where to take our ideas, how deep to go and where to draw the line, and how to keep it focused. It’s easy to get overly ambitious and try to answer every question imaginable.”

During his two-year stint in the MA program, Young was able to share a ‘life highlight’ experience with his cohort. While in Abbotsford for classes, he also participated in the World Police and Fire Games and won a gold medal with his mixed softball team.

“It was a big deal and being down for class at the same time as the tournament, I really had the support of my cohort, especially since they were all connected to the criminal justice system and these were games for people in our line of work.”

Young wasn’t the only person from his worksite in the program. He gives special credit to colleague Lori Pruce for going through the two-year MA program with him, and providing daily support.

“We would carpool down from Kamloops together and talk about our research projects the whole way there and the whole way back,” he says. “And every day in the workplace we could compare notes and give each other advice on finding information and conducting research.”

Young also thanks his wife Pamela and kids Justin, Alexa, and Mikayla and his employer for their support during his two-year program. Young was born and raised in Kamloops.

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