After spending 29 years working for the Fishers Police Department, Michael Johnson knew his time as an officer was coming to a close. Retirement was approaching—but Michael isn’t one to sit around. He knew retirement would merely be a transition for him. That’s when he began planning for life after law enforcement.
“I thought earning a master’s degree in Public Administration would set the stage for my future, even if I didn’t know exactly what I would do at the time,” he says. “I’m a 52-year-old father of three. I always wanted to earn a master’s degree but always talked myself out of the idea because I didn’t think I had time.”
Michael says he realized that pursuing a graduate degree would always be a time commitment, no matter what stage of life he was in. So, he began looking at options to advance and expand his education.
“I knew O’Neill was a well-respected organization for people seeking graduate degrees in public administration,” Michael recalls. “Already, the MPA program at O’Neill has allowed me to grow so much both academically and personally.”
Combine O’Neill with the power of an IU degree, and Michael was set on the path to the next stage of his career.
But first, he had to figure out how to balance his current work and home life with the responsibilities of graduate school.
“This has not been without its challenges,” he admits. “I have a very supportive wife who has picked up the slack when necessary. I also know I have limits as a professional, a husband, and a father. I try to keep my school load manageable so I can juggle all my responsibilities.”
And Michael has done just that. In fact, his work ethic both inside and outside the classroom caught the attention of those in IUPUI’s Division of Student Affairs, the IUPUI Graduate Office, and the Graduate and Professional Student Government. Michael was named among IUPUI’s Elite 50 graduate and professional students.
“I was shocked, to be honest,” Michael says. “I struggled academically when I was younger. I never would have believed I would one day have a graduate-level GPA of 4.0 with a prestigious academic award such as the Elite 50. I am honored to be in a position where my life experiences can be recognized and used to inspire others to succeed.”
That’s why Michael is encouraging others to not put off earning their master’s degree.
“If you’re thinking about doing it, get started while you are young,” he says. “I wish someone would have pushed me to start when I was a younger man.”
Michael retired from the Fishers Police Department on March 4 of this year. Just five days later, he was approved as the new Director of School Safety for Hamilton Southeastern Schools. Michael is living his next chapter while completing his MPA.
He also says HSE may not be his last career stop. He’s already planning for the next ‘next’ in his life. He hopes to one day teach college courses and help guide a new generation of officers into the field.