The path to Radford Garrison’s degree was a little bumpy, and at times he wondered if he’d even graduate.
A father of four – the youngest three years old and the oldest a student at Temple University in Philadelphia – Garrison was working on his OU Extended Campus Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree while juggling family and a full-time job as the senior manager of public safety and emergency preparedness at a hospital system in Delaware.
“Right near the end of the degree, I was struggling to push myself through,” he said.
With a large family and other distractions, Garrison was finding it hard to study at home. That’s when he received an email from one of his professors, Todd Wuestewald.
“Dr. Wuestewald sent a random email to check on me as the comprehensive exam was coming up,” Garrison said. “It made me feel like someone cared and that I would let down more than myself if I gave up.”
He dug in deep and forced himself to go to the local library, where he worked daily on his comp exam. Despite several setbacks, including library computers locking up two hours before his exam was due, he persevered.
“I logged numerous hours there and completed successfully,” he said. “It was seemingly unbelievable, but it worked out despite my brief panic.”
In May, at the age of 42, Garrison graduated from OU Extended Campus with his master’s degree, a goal he set years ago when he was finishing high school.
“I had plans to go to OU since graduating Milton Hershey School in 1994,” Garrison said. “It just wasn’t feasible at that time.”
Years later, Garrison saw a television advertisement for OU’s online programs while watching an OU football game.
“I was an Oklahoma football fan since I was a kid, but when I read online about the criminal justice program, it was held in very high regard,” he said. “Before coming to Oklahoma, I had all the certifications, but I didn’t have a master’s degree, which is paramount in the field of healthcare security and law enforcement.”
With an associate degree in Homeland Defense and Emergency Management from Delaware Technical and Community College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wilmington University under his belt, Garrison immediately began taking online criminal justice courses at OU. He earned master’s certificates in Restorative Justice and Corrections Management from OU Extended Campus in December 2018, then finally his graduate degree in May.
Despite his hardships, Garrison prevailed with a 3.6 grade-point average. Garrison said he couldn’t have completed his degree without the support of his family and his instructors, especially Wuestewald, Paul Ketchum and Mary Looman.
“OU Extended Campus pushed me to have a better knowledge of research. My perseverance is more a testament to the program and people. Iron sharpens iron, and being educated, instructed and coached by great people makes another person that much better."
“They all are a piece of who I’ve become. Dr. Wuestewald stayed on me when I looked for easy passage but also showed me opportunities for success. Dr. Looman’s perception is powerful, and Dr. Ketchum is a true master of research. His tips were fruitful and helpful,” he said. “They were excellent at pointing out the opportunities for improvement and setting clear expectations. They wouldn’t settle for giving good enough. They want your best, and I appreciate that.”
Garrison said he’s grateful for the television ad that led him to OU Extended Campus and changed his life. He’s starting a new job as director of security and emergency management at a large health system, and he recently finished his first three credits toward his doctoral degree.
He credits OU Extended Campus and the ability to take classes online for the opportunities he’s now experiencing.
“OU Extended Campus pushed me to have a better knowledge of research. My perseverance is more a testament to the program and people. Iron sharpens iron, and being educated, instructed and coached by great people makes another person that much better,” he said. “I’m that much better because of the University of Oklahoma and the professors that invested in me. I’m very grateful and appreciative of my experience.”
Garrison said he has one piece of advice for anyone who thinks a college degree is beyond their grasp.
“I’ve been Boomer Sooner since I was a kid, and to anyone that dreams but couldn’t make it happen because of money, distance or any other situation, it can be a reality,” he said. “Don’t quit and never make excuses, just be driven.”