Jeff Green, PhD, has devoted his life to public service. He spent almost 12 years as a police officer on a large metropolitan force before joining the FBI, where he has worked as an agent for 19 years. After earning several degrees, Green added a PhD in Criminal Justice from Capella University to the list in 2006, and was on the faculty of the School of Public Service Leadership from 2007-2016.
While Green continues work for the FBI, his experience with online education also led him to author a book, Graduate Savvy, intended for online students.
Q. How did you get into public safety?
A. I grew up in a small town. In high school, I worked part-time as a police dispatcher—a fun weekend job. My dad was a car dealer, and the plan was for me to go to college and come home to the family business. So I spent two years as a business-school undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University.
But then something happened: I took a criminal justice course as an elective and all the pieces fell into place. The material was fascinating. The professors’ stories were exciting. The idea that one person could make a difference in the lives of so many provided the sense of purpose I had been missing.
Q. Tell us about your path to the FBI.
A. I spent many years as a police detective working in vice and narcotics. I loved the hours and pace as well as the rigor of the work. I also developed a passion for the Constitution.
I joined the Bureau in my early 30s not knowing what to expect. When I left the FBI Academy, I was assigned to a drug squad in Philadelphia that focused on international drug cartels. I eventually created a multi-jurisdictional task force, which brought together the unique perspectives and talents of agents and officers across the law enforcement community. From there, I went on to supervise several classified projects in Washington, D.C.
Q. What traits are important for individuals to hone if they want to work in criminal justice?
A. Each of the positions I have held as a police officer and agent required critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. But the single most important skill required of any public service practitioner is the ability to lead.
Q. What makes public safety fulfilling?
A. Public service folks are driven by a sense of purpose. They live to make a difference in the lives of others. Some are healers; some are protectors. We all fulfill our purpose in different ways.
Even within our specific fields, we see different rewards. As a police officer, I remember encountering a young family on the side of the road with no food and nowhere to go. My fellow officers and I drummed up $50 to feed them and put them in a warm room for the night.
I also won’t forget the night I forced entry into a house on a domestic call to find the husband wrapping a telephone cord around his wife’s throat with her feet dangling off the ground. The paramedics said she was seconds from death.
Each public servant has their own sense of what makes a fulfilling career. I’m just grateful mine has had so many meaningful and memorable moments.
Q. How did you end up at Capella?
A. I was working on a PhD in Criminal Justice at a school in Philadelphia when the events of 9/11 occurred. As an FBI agent, my work life changed rapidly and dramatically, and it became very clear that the constraints of a brick-and-mortar university would no longer work for me. I eventually enrolled at Capella because it was more flexible, and I completed my PhD in 2006.
Q. What prompted you to write Graduate Savvy?
A. The idea for the book came from attending Capella residencies. I would spend hour after hour answering the same questions about the journey to graduation. It seemed students gravitated towards me because I had the perspective of being both a Capella grad and professor. During one colloquium, a student said, “You should put your experiences in a book. It would really help a lot of people.” So I did.
There’s scholarly research behind Graduate Savvy, but I wanted to write it in a conversational tone. I envisioned a few folks sitting around a table drinking coffee and talking about online learning. If you’re looking for an easy read about the academic journey, Graduate Savvy is a good fit.
Learn more about Capella’s online criminal justice programs.
See graduation rates, median student debt, and other information at Capella Results.