Jill Lees is no stranger to the O’Neill School or Indiana University. She has served as the Chief of Police at Indiana University in Bloomington for the past two years. She earned her Graduate Certificate in Public Management at O’Neill in 2006. She became a member of O’Neill’s Distinguished Alumni Council in 2020. And this year she will earn her Master of Public Affairs degree in Public Management from O’Neill IUPUI.
“It has been a long journey but worth every step on the way,” she says. “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
After earning her graduate certificate, Jill took time off to focus on her career in law enforcement and to raise her son. But she came back to finish what she started.
While she wishes she would have completed her master’s degree years ago, she says 27-year law enforcement career and life experiences contribute to an enhanced classroom discussion and are even more applicable to her classes now.
“Through my leadership class, I was able to reach out and interview Chief Susan Ballard of the Honolulu Police Department, which was an amazing opportunity to connect with another female chief of police, especially from Hawaii,” Jill says. “I love projects where I can connect with someone and learn from their career experiences and effective leadership style.”
Those courses and opportunities opened other doors for Jill. IUPUI named her among their Elite 50 graduate students for the 2020-21 academic year. Something she says she was surprised and humbled to learn.
“I do my very best every single day to make an impact on the IU campus and I try to do my best as an O’Neill student as well,” she says.
Jill adds that her MPA courses have helped her learn more about the public policy process and executive leadership. She plans to put those lessons into practice as she continues to serve the IU community for years to come, both in her role with IUPD and as a mentor to other O’Neill students. Jill and says she loves meeting with students to help them along their career path and hopes her experiences can help guide the next generation of O’Neill students.
Part of that guidance comes from recognizing she may not have taken a traditional path into graduate school. She stresses a school-work-life balance and says that—for her—that meant taking one class at a time. But that isn’t her only piece of advice students like her, weighing whether to enroll in graduate school.
“Education is a lifelong experience,” she says. “If you don’t finish right after your undergrad degree, it’s okay. Just keep working hard, and you can do anything you put your mind to. As Abigail Adams said, ‘Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.’”