Alumna Regan Casey graduated from the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy Dec. 5, 2019. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Newman in May 2019 and began training to become a Kansas State Trooper in June.
Casey didn’t always have her mind set on becoming a state trooper. There was no epiphany, she said, but she saw a trooper as she was driving one day and thought, “I think I want to do that.”
With the help of the Newman Academic Affairs office, where she worked as a student, and Director of Security Mo Floyd, her professors and others, Casey was well-supported through the decision-making, application and academy processes.
The application process takes roughly one year and consists of a written exam, a polygraph test, a background investigation, a psychological exam, a medical background, a hearing and eye test, an in-person interview with the command staff and a physical agility test. Those who pass are given an offer of employment and begin their 25 weeks of training.
Casey’s goal was to get into the academy by summer 2019. Her goal was realized as she was offered employment and began training in mid-June.
“The academy is one of the hardest things you’ll have to do but the Kansas Highway Patrol does a great job of preparing us for the job mentally and physically,” Casey said.
The academy is based on military training. Casey said the schedule consisted of waking up at 5:20 for a workout, morning chores, breakfast, thenclass until noon, dinner, evening workout, then time back in the dorms for a shower, evening chores and study. Lights out was always 10 p.m. “Not a second sooner or later,” she said, laughing.
“Then we’d wake up and do it all again. They push you physically and mentally to make you realize you are capable of more than what you ever thought. You earn every stitch of your uniform.”
Though the schedule was rigorous, Casey said the hardest part of the academy was being away from family and friends. Recruits turn in their phones and aren’t able to contact friends and family.
“It’s hard to be in such a stressful environment and not have your loved ones to lean on. However, it really helps teach you to count on yourself and the people around you,” she said.
It also helps cultivate friendships between recruits. Casey said her favorite part of the academy was leaving with lifelong friendships.
Not only has Casey gained new friends but she experienced change and growth in herself during her time in the academy.
“The Highway Patrol teaches you respect, and courtesy and pride. Because of this process, I have learned to be confident, yet humble. I learned to have a warrior mindset no matter the situation but yet be compassionate enough to listen and respect everyone on and off duty,” she said.
Casey is thankful for her professors at Newman who helped her achieve her goal of becoming a Kansas State Trooper. Professors Jill Fort and Kristi Edwards of the criminal justice program aided Casey in finding an internship with the Wichita Police Department (WPD), which Casey said was an eye-opening experience that helped solidify her decision to apply.
Casey said, “Newman is so good about making dreams come true. All you have to have is a vision and motivation and the faculty and staff will do whatever they can to make sure it happens, and you can’t just find that anywhere.”
Her professors weren’t the only support team Casey had at Newman. The Academic Affairs office staff, Floyd and Director of Residence Life Scott Mudloff attended her graduation Dec. 5.
“They all made the trip down to see me get my badge and walk across the stage, and it meant the world to me,” Casey said. “When I saw some of the biggest role models in my life at graduation, when I was finally achieving a goal I worked so hard to get, it meant the world to me. It really shows that Newman is not just a school, it’s a family. Once a Jet, always a Jet.”
Her supporters feel the same way about her. Advanced Standing Coordinator Elaine Schmeidler said, “I was so proud of her. I cried like any mama bear would. I thought about all the things that girl has been through as she walked across that stage. Kansas is lucky to have such a wonderful young lady at its service.”
Schmeidler said they were excited to see her accomplish her goal. “We all had been on this journey to the academy with her. We were with her when life as a Newman student was sometimes difficult, and when she did her ride-alongs with the WPD, we supported her through the academy application process, we were with her through the challenges she experienced getting into the academy, she was our cub and we were all her mama bears.”
Floyd is known for supporting students in any way he can and Casey was no exception. After Casey talked with Floyd in her first years at Newman about a career in law enforcement, the two had many talks about the pros and cons of the career and which department to go with.
Floyd helped her through the application process and was a reference for her as well. “When she graduated from Newman I gave her a hug and told her that the next time I saw her I would call her Trooper Casey. That’s how confident I was in her,” he said.
At graduation, Floyd provided Casey with plenty of good advice for a tough career. “I said that she needed to be ready for people to treat her differently, because they would.”
He reminded her to not take things too personally and advised her to find a hobby outside of law enforcement to help process some of the unpleasant things she might see. He also encouraged her to ask for help and lean on her support system when needed but reminded her to not scare them with stories of what she was seeing and experiencing as a state trooper.
“Finally, I told her that it was okay to be hard on the outside, but don’t get hard on the inside and never forget the person she was dealing with was human just like her.”
Floyd said, “I was so proud of Regan as I saw her father pin her badge on her and watched her walk across the stage. As she was shaking hands I thought, ‘Here’s a Newman student who had a dream, made a plan to accomplish that dream, followed her plan and worked hard and was now realizing that dream.’ I was so glad to be a small part of that.”
Casey is appreciative of all the thoughts, prayers and support she’s received through the whole process and said she couldn’t have done it without all the people who have helped along the way.
She’s most looking forward to being on the road, helping people, keeping them safe and especially getting impaired drivers off the road.
“There is nothing better than going on after a shift and thinking to yourself that you really did make a difference,” she said.
In the future, Casey plans to get involved with the Breath and Alcohol Unit on the patrol and help get impaired drivers off the road.