SKCTC, EKU partner for degree

Published 1:08 pm Friday, March 30, 2018

At Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC), strong partnerships are vital to student success. One such partnership with Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is no exception. Since 2014, Southeast students have had the option to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice while attending classes exclusively on the SKCTC Whitesburg campus.

For Gemma Bentley, who graduated from the program last fall (2017), this option was a perfect fit. “I have always been the type of person who felt the need to help others,” says Bentley, “and I couldn’t think of a better area to help my community than through criminal justice.”

The 54-year-old mother of three left the area in the early ‘80s because of dwindling job opportunities. When she returned to Whitesburg six years ago, a relative talked her into enrolling in SKCTC, where she graduated with an associate of science in criminal justice. Looking to further her education, she applied to Eastern.

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“One of the main attractions of this program, aside from the obvious quality of an EKU education, was the location and flexibility,” says Bentley. Students are able to take courses face-to-face in Whitesburg as well as through E-Presence programming, which is comparable to Blackboard or other web-based distance learning methods. Had she been required to drive the two and a half hours to the Richmond campus, Bentley says, it would have been impossible for her to complete her degree within the same time frame.

Bentley also credits the support she received from the criminal justice faculty, noting their enthusiasm and commitment to student success. “You won’t find another path to a bachelor’s degree with such committed staff and faculty,” she says. Sam Johnson, who graduated in 2016, agrees: “The instructors are passionate. They have a genuine interest in producing the best and most efficient law enforcement professionals in the nation.”

Financial support is an added convenience, as Southeast graduates qualify for a transfer scholarship of up to $2,000 per semester, determined by GPA.

According to Bentley, her new credentials continue to open new doors. “I have had the opportunity to work at the Whitesburg Courthouse with Judge Mullins, giving me a chance to see how the court system works first hand. I have volunteered as a victim’s advocate in (Letcher County Attorney) Jamie Hatton’s office.” Currently, she works part time with the EKU Criminal Justice program as a classroom facilitator and recruiter with plans to earn her master’s degree in the near future.

“This has been a great opportunity,” says Bentley. “As a result of this program, I see a brighter future for myself, and I can see a brighter future in Eastern Kentucky.”

Anyone who is thinking of applying to this program should attend the Open House on the SKCTC Whitesburg Campus at 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., April 2. For more information on the SKCTC associate degree program, contact Brian Fields at 606-589-3354 or With questions about the bachelor’s degree program, contact Stephen Kappeler at or Gemma Bentley at 606-312-2268 or You may also visit EKU’s Regional Campuses and Sites Criminal Justice website at