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Detroit Police Chief will serve as keynote speaker at Cleary commencement

Editor’s note: Detroit Police Chief James White, along with Cleary President Alan Drimmer, are available for interviews at commencement ceremonies on May 6. Please call Brett Rogers at 248.670.9800 or email him at brogers@cleary.edu to arrange an interview.

(HOWELL, MI) Detroit Police Chief James E. White is the keynote speaker at Cleary University’s commencement festivities Saturday, May 6 at the university’s campus in Howell.

“Chief White is an ideal choice for our graduation ceremony,” announces Alan Drimmer, PhD, Cleary president. “He is a strong advocate for higher education and was instrumental in the establishment of Cleary’s educational partnership with the Detroit Police Department (DPD). Thanks to the efforts of Chief White and his team, the program has been overwhelmingly successful.

In May 2022, the first DPD graduating class was honored on the Cleary University stadium stage and at Little Caesar’s Arena (LCA) in Detroit. A total of 102 Detroit law enforcement officials earned a degree from the university.

In the fall of 2021, Cleary and the DPD announced this collaborative degree program whereby DPD officers and staff could earn a bachelor’s or a master’s degree from Cleary through an accelerated program crediting students for work life experience. Most students were able to complete their degree in one year.

At a special commencement ceremony last May at the LCA, Chief White spoke to the first police graduates of the Cleary program, announcing, “this is one of those monumental moments in your life that you always will remember. As graduates of Cleary University, you now have the ticket that will change your life forever. Every one of you has taken a step to serve this community even better. You are armed with the tools of the mind to affect even greater change,” he said to the group.

“The proudest moment of my career was being invited to the White House to represent the Detroit Police Department and all of our accomplishments,” Chief White added. “The second greatest moment of my career is right here, looking at all of you. I feel like a proud Dad.”

This year, 202 members of the DPD will graduate from Cleary.

The Degree Completion Pathway Program, as it was named, was developed in response to the needs of the Detroit Police Department to provide educational training and benefits to officers and staff. In early fall 2021, President Drimmer and Police Chief White announced the new partnership at a press conference held at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

“Chief White had a vision, and we at Cleary University were honored to work alongside the police chief and the Detroit Police Department to bring his vision to life,” reports Dr. Drimmer. “He advocated for a specialized degree program that offers the hardworking law enforcement officers of Detroit an opportunity to obtain a degree quickly, affordably and conveniently. He not only wanted to invest in the future of the DPD, but he also wanted to invest in the success of every police officer.

“Chief White wants to retain and attract the best of the best in their profession, and offering this truly groundbreaking program was one more resource for achievement,” Dr. Drimmer finds. “The foundation of a great police force is arming its team with all the tools for success, and I salute Chief White for making this happen for the men and women of the DPD.”

That is why Cleary, working collaboratively with the DPD, designed the Degree Pathway Completion Program specifically to match the needs of the DPD, whose goal was to retain its law enforcement team and attract new talent. Classes are held at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, students meet in person once a week, and the remaining classes and coursework can be completed online. A dedicated team of professors provide tutoring, mentoring and advising to ensure all students have every opportunity to graduate on time.

Cleary also has a dedicated academic advisor at the university’s Detroit campus who is available anytime of the day or evening to answer student questions, provide support and encouragement, and help students succeed. LaTasha Ellis, Detroit Education Center coordinator who oversees the DPD program, worked behind the scenes to add the special program components that has led to its success.

“My thinking was, ‘what do adults need to be successful when returning to the classroom after many years, and for some, entering for the first time?’”

Here are some components of this innovative program that have proven highly effective:

  • Fast-tracked: most students can obtain a degree in one year
  • Convenient: it must fit their work life schedule and maintain work life balance
  • Affordable: the program must be cost-effective
  • Accessible: classes need to be close to home or online
  • Achievable: students will receive the resources to complete coursework successfully and graduate

The program includes a customized prior learning assessment process that provides college credits for previous college coursework, industry certifications and trainings, and life and work experience. Many veteran police officers can complete their bachelor’s degree in less than one year at Cleary.

According to Ellis, “we tested the waters for our first DPD class with one flyer we posted at police headquarters on a Friday. By Monday, 52 officers already had signed up.

“Now, it was up to Cleary to ensure the students would graduate.”

Ellis knew every student by name; she calls them “my kids.” She supported them through every step of their educational journey; she was far more than an instructor; she was a mentor, an advisor, a tutor, a friend, and sometimes, she notes, she felt like a mother. “I was going to do whatever it took to see every student graduate … and every single one did!

“Building relationships is key for this program to work,” Ellis adds. “I’ve always taken pride in the Cleary philosophy that we build and maintain sustainable relationships with our students. Working with DPD students of Cleary excites me, motivates me and inspires me!”

The Degree Pathway Completion Program provides members of the DPD the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in diversity, leadership and public safety, and a master’s degree in leadership. Cleary offers different education tracks depending on the officers’ experience. Goal is degree completion within one year. The partnership includes a dedicated admissions team, advisors, tutoring services and lifelong career support.

“To equip our officers with the proper education to do their jobs as effectively as possible is of utmost importance to the Detroit Police Department and the community we serve,” Chief White points out. “The honor and privilege of wearing a badge means we have, and operate with, policing excellence, and the foundation of that excellence is education.”

“It has been a dedicated vision of Cleary University to create programs that specifically meet the needs of workplaces and civic organizations, and we are thrilled that the partnership with DPD is producing such positive results,” Dr. Drimmer notes. “I credit Chief White’s insight, which has led the way to such far-reaching outcomes.”

Lt. Mark Young, a veteran police officer and president of the Detroit Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association, was in the first Cleary graduating class. At last year’s commencement ceremony, he received the Graduate Students Leadership Award.

“Cleary helped me, and my fellow officers, gain a better understanding of the importance of relationships, and for bringing vision into our lives,” he announced at the commencement ceremony. “I received a life-changing opportunity at Cleary; it is one of the best things that ever happened for me. Cleary has allowed me to be the best I can be, to discover the possibilities life has to offer. I represent heroes, but the real hero is Cleary University’s founder who gave us all a reason to be Cleary proud. Officers at all levels now can gain valuable and necessary skills while advancing their careers within the Detroit Police Department.”

Lt. James Coles, another inaugural class graduate, received 90 educational credits for professional training, certifications and work experience. He only had to complete 30 credits of coursework to earn his bachelor’s degree from Cleary.

Detroit Police Officers Erica and Roland Frederick, decided to enroll in the Cleary program and complete their bachelor degrees together.

“We always said we wanted to go back to school, but it had been so long, and it was so expensive,” Erica points out. When they heard about the degree program Cleary offered, “how could we pass up the opportunity?”

The program fit their budget and their busy schedule. They were raising two young children, and they had a daughter earning her degree at Michigan State University.

“Cleary changed the way I felt about school,” Roland finds. “The faculty made the transition easy and achievable for me. They overextend themselves for students, they are responsive, attentive, motivating, and they guided me to success. They exceeded our expectations.”

The Fredericks report that Cleary prepared them to be better leaders, better problem solvers and better mentors.

“Cleary is a place where education and success merge,” Erica says. “Cleary gave me courage, confidence, critical thinking skills and the tools to be an effective leader at my job. And, we maintained work and home life balance! School did not interfere with family time.”

In addition to the Degree Completion Pathway Program, Cleary and the DPD also collaborated on a new leadership certification program exclusively for the DPD.

This leadership certificate provides students with the tools to help motivate and inspire other police officers to emerge as future leaders. The Cleary program pairs a senior leader with an emerging leader to foster a long-term mentor/mentee relationship.

Chief White also was instrumental in developing this program. Training takes place at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. Unlike traditional programs, the leadership certification involves real-world scenarios, relevant leadership discussions, guest speakers, simulations, coaching and mentoring.

Class topics include emotional intelligence, making and executing unpopular decisions, stress and conflict, accountability, team dynamics, thought leadership, finding your leadership style, diversity, listening skills, minimizing risk, critical thinking in action, moral factors in decision making, and much more.

“Cleary University truly is a game changer for the DPD,” Chief White finds.

All employees of the Detroit Police Department are eligible to participate in the Cleary Degree Completion Pathway Program. To learn more about it, visit www.cleary.edu/detroitpolice.

About Cleary University

Founded in 1883, Cleary University is a four-year, world-class accredited university, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees from a unique Business Arts curriculum, driven by a faculty of thought leaders with deep, practical experience in their industries. Providing on-campus and online education models, Cleary provides a robust athletic program and a rich residence life with nearly 200 students living on the quiet, rolling 50-acre campus. Cleary graduates tend to land jobs faster than their peers and with higher earning salaries at the start of their careers.

Cleary University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, a proud member of the HLC Standard Pathway, and an approved institution by the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. A nonprofit university, Cleary’s campus is located at 3750 Cleary Drive, Howell, MI 48843, (800) 686-1883 with an education center within the Durfee Innovation Society at 2470 Collingwood St., Detroit, MI 48206.

Cleary University:

  • Ranked #5 in the nation for best online business degree (University HQ)
  • Ranked #3 in Michigan for best average starting salary two years post-graduation (US Department of Education)
  • Ranked #5 in the entire country for its student debt ratio to starting salaries (Wall Street Journal)
  • Named “Best for Vets College in 2022” by Military Times
  • Earned Gold Level Veteran-Friendly status from The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) for continued excellence in serving military-connected students in Michigan

To learn more about Cleary University, visit its website: https://cleary.edu.