COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Following in the footsteps of his father, a Colorado State Trooper, Adrian Vasquez knew he had a penchant for public service. Following high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force where he served for a decade, never thinking a college degree was the right path for him.
Since then, his outlook has changed drastically. Service was still his goal, but Adrian — armed with life experience — realized a degree was necessary to build a career in civilian law enforcement.
“I remember thinking I had all this training on tactics and more. I thought all the experience and training should be enough, but I had to look at the requirements for success for the field of my choosing. Education is definitely on the list.”
With his new perspective, Adrian sought out and earned a degree that allowed him to kick-start a career in the Colorado Springs Police Department.
“I’m a Colorado native and I really wanted to put on this uniform and serve our community. For a long time, I was able to do that while working as a patrol officer, then a narcotics officer.”
From 1995 to 2011, Adrian served his community by combating crime and removing drugs from the streets of Colorado Springs. His experience prepared him for leadership roles within the department, but further education was essential as he tested for promotions.
“Formal and self-education are both important. They help you speak well and understand the ‘whys’ in certain situation, but higher education makes you think more broadly and more open-minded. It brings other thinking to the table.”
Adrian enrolled in the Master of Criminal Justice program at UCCS with the goal of becoming a Lieutenant. He acknowledged the difficulty of working in the field while seeking a degree, but said support systems at UCCS fueled him.
“I felt it was exceptional. If you’re a working student, you need the support of your professors, and I found they were very supportive. They were also very well informed and educated on the classes they were teaching.”
Not the average student, Adrian brought a host of criminal justice knowledge to his studies, but he found he learned in unexpected ways.
“For the most part, my fellow students were not police officers. They brought a perspective to me that was important to hear regarding constitutional rights and how officers act in the street. It was critical for me.”
While studying, Adrian frequently had to leave class to take calls and handle emergency situations.
“It was a balancing act to get to classes, but every professor was completely understanding. I remember having to take a murder call and left without saying anything, but they never batted an eye. They had an understanding of what I was responsible for.”
Adrian said his professors were also able to help him take away valuable information that would fuel his service.
“From non-police-related ethics information to the theories and sociological perspective, I learned a lot while studying at UCCS.”
His studies paid off, and following his graduation, he has been promoted multiple times, now to Deputy Chief overseeing CSPD’s patrol operations.
“Law enforcement is such a complicated and diverse career field, and that’s why getting your degree is important. You’re exposed to so many different thoughts and perspectives on policing.”
With all his education and experience, he’s found himself giving advice to those aspiring to careers in public service.
“I can’t think of a career where a degree isn’t desired or beneficial to you. Why not proactively make your way there and check that box off to help you succeed in whatever you’re trying to accomplish? It’s easy to hope somebody is going to see something in you, but most of us have to put in work to be as successful as we can be.”
The UCCS Success Stories series aims to highlight an array of graduates from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Do you know of someone we should feature? Submit a nomination here.