Wednesday, February 6, 2013
During her college days, Vickie Weaver had an idea she might like to sculpt not only shapes, but the lives of students, as well. As a prospective art teacher, Weaver had a particular interest in sculpture, but also feared that a languishing job market might mean a lack of opportunity at the head of the classroom.
“The economy was really bad, so I not only worried about finding a job, but repaying my student loans,” said Weaver, who was raised in a military family that was also heavily involved in law enforcement. Seeking an alternative, she enlisted in the U.S. Army after graduating from college, with an eye on becoming an officer.
“I became an MP (military police), and I loved it,” said Weaver, now the director of Public Safety at Rider University, a post she has held since 1993. Three decades later, rather than sculpture, Weaver is helping to shape public safety policy on campuses from coast to coast as the president-elect of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Association, or IACLEA. She will assume the presidency of the professional service organization, which proudly boasts more than 1,200 colleges and universities in 20 countries among its membership, this June.
“IACLEA advances campus public safety by providing educational resources, advocacy, and professional development services, and is the leading authority for campus public safety,” said Weaver, who became involved with the association in 1995. “I knew that I had found a terrific organization that really pays attention to the concerns of its members and the issues facing campus safety.”
That international network of support among individuals in campus law enforcement, criminal justice faculty members, and municipal chiefs of police allows members to discuss and share best practices for promoting safety on campus.
“With more than 17 million college students attending thousands of colleges and universities, it’s something that’s vital,” explained Weaver, who joined Rider’s Public Safety department in 1986. “It’s a 24/7 commitment to protecting these communities, and we take it very seriously.”
Among the more high-profile IACLEA events is the association’s Day on the Hill, during which members meet with members of Congress and the Senate, as well as their staffs on Capitol Hill to discuss the concerns of IACLEA member institutions in promoting safe environments for students.
“We want them to understand the challenges we face, and how those issues affect all citizens,” Weaver said, explaining how IACLEA also works collaboratively with secondary and post- secondary school administrators, community and parental groups to implement education for these young students, such as addressing school violence.
“Even the youngest children are our future students,” Weaver explained. “So, we’re certainly committed partners in that effort.”
Another public safety issue currently in the spotlight is that of gun violence, such as the kind that recently occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. To be as prepared as possible in the case of such an incident, Weaver, along with Frank Scharibone, coordinator of safety and security; and Debbie Stasolla, associate vice president for planning; have implemented an interactive Active Shooter Response preparedness program. At the hub of the program is seminar-style training available to each office on campus, in which faculty and staff gather for a video that describes the safest course of conduct in the case of a shooter on campus. The training, which is also geared for students, is already receiving praise from members of the Rider community.
Though Weaver’s career never quite found its way to the classroom, she sees her role with Public Safety as one steeped in education. From the time she began working at Rider, she found a place where her multifaceted interests – teaching, art, and law enforcement – converged.
“Right away, I loved the campus and its community, but I also loved the idea of being back on campus, with a chance to educate students” about safety, recalled Weaver, who added that she’s also able to use her background in art to find creative solutions to her safety issues. To a teacher at heart, bearing witness to the personal evolution of students is one of Weaver’s most cherished aspects of the job.
“It’s great to see someone just starting college, graduating and beginning their career path, and I like seeing alumni, in particular those who achieve some type of success or career contribution,” Weaver said. “It’s fun to say, ‘Hey, I knew that person as a student.”