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Veteran police officer completes degree at Cleary after nearly 30 years

“I was one very close decision away from choosing the wrong path in my life,” admits City of Taylor Deputy Chief of Police, Michael Lividini.

He grew up in a home laden with struggles, obstacles and instability. He could continue to live in that world or choose a different direction. It was his great fortune that a friend told him about openings in the Wayne County Sheriff’s department, and Michael leaped at the opportunity. He joined the sheriff’s department at the age of 19 and never looked back.

“It always was a dream of mine to have a career in law enforcement, and my dream was coming true!” he announces proudly. After one year with the sheriff’s department, Michael accepted a position with the Detroit Police where he stayed for four years until he was hired to serve the City of Taylor as a police officer and worked his way up through the ranks to Deputy Chief. 

Along the way, Deputy Chief Lividini took a couple of college classes, but “I really didn’t take my education seriously,” he points out. “I had the job I wanted, and I was doing what I wanted without a degree.”

As the years passed, the Deputy Chief began to understand the value of a college degree. “It didn’t matter how much experience I had. A college degree would open so many more doors for me; I was close to retirement; what am I going to do without my degree?” The thought kept eating at him.

In 2021, he took the first big step and completed an associate degree.

Soon after, he heard other officers talking about a bachelor’s degree program offered at Cleary that specifically was designed to help police officers and other first responders. Cleary would work around the officers’ schedule and award credits for years of service in the police department and other college work. “It sounded achievable,” Deputy Chief Lividini thought, “but I needed to verify what I was hearing before I enrolled. I was 46 years old! I had to be sure this was a program that made sense for me at my age.”

LaTasha Ellis, director of Public Safety & Corporate Sector for Cleary, met with Deputy Chief Lividini and several other officers at Taylor Police headquarters. She explained the Cleary bachelor’s degree program in Leadership, Diversity and Public Safety and what was required to complete this degree.

The Deputy Chief expressed concerns about his many years away from the classroom. Would he fit, would he feel embarrassed, would the work be too hard, could he juggle his job and his family life … would he be successful?

“LaTasha was completely transparent, very open and honest, and she put all of my issues to rest,” Deputy Chief Lividini notes. After the meeting, 11 officers including Deputy Chief Lividini, enrolled as students at Cleary. “That was 10 percent of our department,” he points out. “The Mayor of Taylor and City Council all supported our decision,” he adds.

At first, the Deputy Chief thought he would be uncomfortable sitting in a classroom with officers much younger than him. “But it wasn’t! We all have the same goal – to earn our degree.”

He also was worried that he would struggle with the coursework, that the faculty would just give assignments and disappear, but that didn’t happen. In fact, he was pleasantly surprised to see how hands on the teachers were. “The faculty understands us and our situation. The teachers were very accommodating about our work life and home life schedule. We had a lot on our plate, and they knew we were worried about managing it all. We all worked together to make it work!”

In addition, LaTasha, who served as the program coordinator, attended classes so she could learn what the course expectations were, and what the instructors were looking for. She provided support and guidance for every officer every step through their education. “She was amazing!” he points out.

What especially impressed Deputy Chief Lividini was the networking and partnerships established through Cleary’s program. “These are priceless! I can pick up the phone and call fellow officers at the Detroit Police Department to get their insights on a situation we are dealing with in Taylor. Everyone’s perspective is different, and it is very beneficial to hear what other officers think. We all are working on the same team, and Cleary put the pieces in place to make this happen.”

Deputy Chief Lividini also notes that Cleary’s program offered him so much more than a degree. “The relationships we are building with each other are so critical to our success as police officers. We are opening up dialogue and more lines of communication. Cleary led the way for this.”

The first class of Cleary graduates from the Taylor Police Department proudly walked on the stage at commencement festivities this year.

“Many other officers felt the program sounded too good to be true, so they chose to see how our pioneer class did. Now we’ve got many officers lined up and ready to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degree,” Deputy Chief Lividini is happy to report.

“Time is valuable and Cleary understands that,” he adds.

Classes meet one night a week at 5:30 pm at Detroit Police Headquarters or via Zoom. The rest of the classes are online.

“Cleary is not a typical college,” he adds. “Many students have not been in school for 20 or 30 years, and it can be very intimidating to return to the classroom. Cleary eased us into the college experience, and they stayed with us every step of the way.”

Deputy Chief Lividini finished his degree in three semesters. He plans to continue at Cleary to earn a master’s degree. In addition, Cleary is establishing a Public Safety Board and he has been invited to serve on it.

“Don’t be like me and wait almost 30 years to get your degree,” he advises. “If I can do this, trust me, you can!

“Cleary worked around my schedule and my pace,” he adds. “The tools they gave me are invaluable. We talked about hot topics today in law enforcement and how they impact our work, we learned a lot about time management, and the diversity class provided me with insights I had not considered before.

“It’s not an easy ride,” he points out. “You have to put in the work.

“When I retire, I know I have a degree and I don’t have to talk around it anymore. I’m prepared for when that next door opens in my career.

“I’m thankful to the City of Taylor and Cleary University for offering me this opportunity to earn a degree. Without a doubt, this is the perfect route to take for someone in public safety. My degree from Cleary is worth its weight in gold!