By Rebecca Zisch
The Nevada State College campus in downtown Henderson sits across the street from the headquarters of the City of Henderson Police Department (HPD). Maybe it’s this geographic proximity that initially inspired NSC to develop a degree in Law Enforcement. But five years later, the success of the program has firmly established it as one the hallmarks of Nevada State College.
In 2003, NSC began its Bachelor in Public Administration in Law Enforcement (BPALE) program. According to Assistant Professor William Whisenhunt, the degree program focuses on theories of public administration, but many of the BPALE students already have real life experience in the law enforcement field.
Whisenhunt himself comes to Nevada State College with over 40 year’s experience in various fields of criminal justice, from police sergeant to assistant district attorney. So, he is able to expertly express to his students the positive effects higher education can have on a career in law enforcement.
Since the program’s inception, almost 8% of NSC graduates have been Law Enforcement majors. For the Spring 2008 semester, over 50 declared Law Enforcement majors are attending NSC and over 100 more are working toward their degrees on an ongoing basis.
One of the program’s most distinguished graduates is Deputy Chief James White of the HPD. White openly admits that he completed his degree at the age of 55. He says he wanted to lead by example with his children and his colleagues and show them that education is an important goal no matter how old you are.
Captain Robert Wamsley of the HPD agrees. Before coming to NSC, Wamsley’s experience in higher education included police academy training 18 years ago, attending college on and off until 1994 and several classes at the FBI Academy at Quantico. But this semester he is taking his last two required upper division courses. He saw completing his degree as an example for my kids of finishing what you start and then I started benefitting from it professionally.
Currently Commander of the Investigations Division, Captain Wamsley knows that earning his baccalaureate degree will impact his future career, and might even lead him back to school, either enrolled in an advanced degree program or as a teacher. In the meantime, he’s encouraging others to go back to school like he did. I hear a lot of people talking about themselves and their education vs. career situation and they have the same story that I did. I always recommend that they go back and finish their degrees in order to move up the ranks.
Deputy Chief White adds, the law enforcement landscape is changing. It’s becoming more necessary for people to have a 4-year degree in order to be promoted.
He regularly encourages others at the HPD to take advantage of NSC’s educational excellence. The Henderson Police Department reimburses 100% of books and tuition, so there’s no good reason not to go to school. And Nevada State has the best of all of the available law enforcement programs in the area… it’s the college that reaches out to the law enforcement community the most.
White has also observed that there is real value in young students attending classes alongside working police officers as their peers. This only helps everyone. And that includes himself. It’s interesting to note that White was actually the Henderson Police Department’s Acting Chief at the same time that he was enrolled in a course in law enforcement management at Nevada State College.
Captain Wamsley praises the real-life applications of the course content at NSC. He says, it’s important to be a good manager, but a better leader. He cites courses in communication and leadership as being especially useful and even fun. As I got involved at Nevada State, I started getting straight as for once in my life, I’m enjoying school.
According to Wishenhunt, the BPALE program is germane for professionals in the field because it focuses on current topics in law enforcement and emphasizes issues that are relevant to the administration of any governmental agency today.
It’s that connection of academic theory and professional practice that Deputy Chief White sees of the significant components of studying Law Enforcement at Nevada State College. He insists, we’re not practicing police procedures in a vacuum you’ve got to bridge the gap between academics and practitioners and that’s what education does. It opens your mind to the way other people think.
For more information on Nevada State College, call: 702.990.2000 or visit: nsc.edu.