A Colorado native, Richard Savage came to Texas to play college baseball at Lubbock Christian University. He graduated in 1999 with bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Social Work. Rich began his career in law enforcement with Dallas Police, where he worked in an undercover unit that focused on property and violent crimes. He moved to Grapevine two years later, in 2001, where he now serves as Administrative Sergeant. In this role, Rich handles internal affairs, hiring, and training. Promoted to Sergeant in 2006, he has also served as a Traffic/Motor Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, and even created a specialized unit focused on things like gangs, drugs, and bait-vehicle programs.
Rich currently lives in Trophy Club, Texas, with his wife of 15 years, and their four boys. He is a huge Denver Broncos fan, “to the point it may be considered a sickness by some,” he states, though he has grown to be quite the Rangers fan, as well.
Learn more about Sergeant Savage’s experience in Tarleton’s Master of Criminal Justice program in the following conversation.
COGS: How did you successfully transition back into being a student?
RS: The transition was very strange. When you are young, you leave high school and go right into working on your bachelor’s. You’re there with people your age, and it is a lot of fun. Then you move on and get into your career, and realize you probably need a little bit more education in your field, and you go back. When you’re gone for almost 15 years and step foot back on that campus, you walk into the classroom and realize that you’re the nontraditional student. You’re the old guy on campus. It makes for a moment where you’re a little short on breath and you think ‘what am I doing?’ It was a very surreal moment to walk back into that classroom and realize you’re kind of back where you started, but it’s been a lot of fun.
I have to tell you, I enjoyed the classroom and the learning environment much more than I did when I was younger. I had a lot more fun with it, and appreciated it a lot more, and that is probably from understanding my profession more now, because I had no clue what it was going to be like when I was an undergrad. It really helps to be able to understand the things you have come across, and the things you might come across in the future, and how to handle those things.
COGS: What advice would you have for someone who is currently in the grad school search and admissions process?
RS: There are three things I was really focused on. The first is pretty obvious, in that it needs to be a good fit for the person. They need to be comfortable with the school, or it is going to be that much harder to keep focused and get the degree, and it is already hard enough. Second, they really need to make sure the coursework they’re going into is what they want. They need to be sure about the field they are going into. Finally, they need to really research the school and their accreditation, and make sure all of that will be accepted by their licensing.
COGS: How did you balance school work with other obligations like your career and your family?
RS: Obviously, your job is your livelihood. That’s going to be a first priority. The majority of your time is spent doing that. Your family is why you are going back to school, to better yourself and better your career and stuff like that, so you really don’t want to neglect that. For me, I gave my time to my family in the evening. I still participated in their activities, and made sure I took care of them in that area. For school, it was early mornings. I got up very early in the mornings and did my school work where it was quiet and peaceful, and I didn’t have the distractions.
You lose a little sleep, but that’s okay. That’s why God gave us caffeine. You do have to prioritize, and sometimes you have to sacrifice. I sacrificed a lot of personal time for school, as far as working out and doing those kinds of things that I would do on my own.
COGS: What are your future plans or goals?
RS: This master’s degree checks the educational box for me to promote within the organization, or potential consulting, or to work as an adjunct professor if I want to do that. Primarily, it gives me the opportunity to move up. In order to be chief of police here in the Metroplex, most departments are going to require a master’s level education.
I’d like to be a chief of police one day, which is the ultimate goal in all of this. As a child that is what I wanted to do, and something I had always dreamed of. It’s still something I want to pursue now. On the flip side of that, you can’t control what happens. I hope that happens, but if it doesn’t, it’s okay. The second thing I’d like to pursue or look into is being a federal monitor for consent decrees, but in order to do that I’d have to pursue a doctoral degree, which I would do.
COGS: Any words of encouragement or advice for grad students?
RS: One thing I would encourage people to do, especially in our current climate, is to push through. I know they want to go out and get a full-time job as soon as they graduate, but to really consider pursuing that master’s degree prior to going into their field of work. I would say that because it is easier to get it then than it is now. It is a very difficult task when you have so many things to juggle. If they can get it now while they’re so used to being a student, that is a big thing. I really think the way our society is going, people are going to require a master’s degree level, and I would highly encourage people to do that if they can.
I also think it is highly important for students to understand that their current behavior will dictate their future career path. So many times I receive an application from a recent graduate who seems to be a great candidate, but once we dig into their background, they have engaged in activity that prevents us from being able to consider them for employment. Their actions now will truly determine their eligibility for hire later. It’s never too early to think about the future.
Explore graduate studies at Tarleton State University at www.tarleton.edu/graduate.