Criminal Justice Students Will Help in Fight Against Human Trafficking

Students in Mars Hill University’s criminal justice program will have an opportunity this fall that their peers at other schools won’t have. They’ll be working with the federal government’s Human Smuggling & Trafficking Center (HSTC) in the fight against human trafficking.

The program is unique to Mars Hill, according to Heather Zurburg, an assistant professor of criminal justice. Zurburg’s connections within the criminal justice field allowed her to bring the project to Mars Hill when she joined the faculty this year. “We are the only academic institution working with HSTC,” she said, “which is why this is so groundbreaking!”

HSTC was established through the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. It is a collaborative effort among the Department of State, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and functions as a centralized information center for smuggling, human trafficking, and national security.

Mars Hill students will work remotely with members of HSTC in Washington, helping process open-source, research-driven intelligence to support local and national anti-human trafficking efforts.

“This offers a tremendous opportunity for students to see first-hand how a federal entity operates and what is required of the products being released from those entities,” said Zurburg. Students will have a chance to network and connect with current federal employees, as well as learn about the process to become a federal employee. They’ll also have the opportunity to work on high-level research, which will better prepare them for graduate programs.

Mars Hill University offers a bachelor’s degree and a minor in criminal justice. The master of arts in criminal justice, which began last academic year, is the university’s newest graduate degree.