To serve and to protect are words many law enforcement officials live by. For Georgia Southern University Patrol Lt. Katie Hodges, serving and protecting the students on campus is her favorite part of her job.
“The highlight of my role is engaging with the community on campus, particularly the college students,” Hodges said. “Interacting with them daily gives me an opportunity to positively influence their transition into adulthood.”
So when Hodges enrolled as a graduate student while serving in the Office of Public Safety on campus, she felt it helped her relate to students on a deeper level.
“Working full-time as an officer and being a full-time graduate student is no easy task,” Hodges said. “It provides me with a level of respect and understanding for the students I serve. I feel that being a student at our University provides me with an insight into what our students may face.”
Hodges, who is completing a master’s degree in criminology, graduated Dec. 14 at Allen E. Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, at which time she will become a Double Eagle. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgia Southern in 2020, at which time she planned to become a doctor.
“I knew that I wanted to help people, so at the time I thought that was the correct path for me to take,” she said. “After shadowing a doctor, I decided I did not enjoy it like I thought I would.”
Instead, Hodges decided to pursue a childhood dream of becoming a police officer, a service-oriented career that was inspired by her parents.
“My father worked for the Georgia State Patrol, and my mother was a registered nurse,” she said. “I admired their dedication and service to our community.”
She went on to enroll in the Savannah Technical College Peace Officer Academy.
“I knew before going to the police academy that I wanted to be an officer at Georgia Southern,” Hodges said. “The experience I received as a student made me want to stick around and continue to interact with that community. Getting to teach and interact with the students is what I love most about working for the University.”
Hodges has worked with Georgia Southern’s Office of Public Safety for three years. In addition to working full time and being a full-time student, Hodges was also recognized by local and state Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations for an act of heroism on campus during which she saved a drowning woman. Despite her accolades from the incident, Hodges remains humble.
“Protecting the students of Georgia Southern is what myself and my agency take pride in,” Hodges said. “It is why I do this job. I am surrounded by fellow heroes who strive to make a difference in our community. I have zero doubt that any other officers I work alongside would not hesitate to prevent the tragedy that I did. Not every day do we encounter a situation in which we may have to step in to save a life, but we train and prepare for that day.”
In addition to protecting, Hodges’ knowledge of law enforcement grew during her time at Georgia Southern.
“My degree has helped provide me with a deeper understanding of the criminal justice system,” said Hodges. “My graduate studies have provided me with a wide range of knowledge of criminological theory, victimology, social inequalities and cyber forensics. This coursework provides me with understanding as to why crime may be occurring in our community, the impact of crime on victims, the social inequalities those in our community may face, as well as technical skills in cyber forensics.”
In January, Hodges will begin a doctoral program in public safety at Middle Georgia State University. Her career goal is to ultimately become a chief of police for a University System of Georgia institution.