Mark Velez says that Southwestern is the best school he has ever attended. And for someone who has earned Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's and Ph.D. degrees and spent the past seven years teaching at several universities, that is saying a lot. His educational credentials evoke the image of a professional and perpetual student and professor. Velez is those things, but he is also a veteran law enforcement officer with 20 years of experience. The first-year evening student currently serves as Captain at the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department.
None of this was planned. "When I was in high school I worked in a restaurant. I started working at 14 because I had to," Velez said. "There were always cops coming in. I asked them if they liked what they did - they told me it was great and that I should give it a try." So at 18, Velez applied for a non-sworn position as a jailer/dispatcher because he was still too young to carry a gun. Since joining the force, he has served in numerous roles including Police Officer, Field Training Officer, Detective and Sergeant. "The most rewarding is working the streets," he said. "Not only is helping people great, but it is also exciting. It's always unknown, and that's fun." The most challenging part of his job has been finding and recruiting quality people to be in law enforcement, a job he says requires good moral character, physical fitness, a desire to help people, humility, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes.
Although fulfilling, Velez has always supplemented his police work with the pursuit of and or teaching in higher education. But he is not quite sure what motivated him to do it. "I never thought that I'd get a bachelors degree because my family didn't have the money and I didn't think I was smart enough." But he has always believed in what he could accomplish with hard work. And although it takes up much of his time, his wife has supported all of his pursuits, "She is the bedrock of my life," Velez states. Velez earned his Associate's degree from El Camino College and his Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Redlands. He completed his Master of Arts in Public Administration at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and in 2006, he earned his Ph.D. in Public Administration from USC, where he was one of seven students in his class accepted from a pool of 300 applicants.
He has parlayed his education into several adjunct professor positions, teaching police-related courses at the junior college level and public administration to graduate students at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Between 2002 and spring 2008, he taught statistics to undergraduate and graduate students at USC. In the future, he thinks it would be fun to teach law. But that is not necessarily why he is here. "I don't have a clue about what kind of law I want to practice. There are two ways to look at it: I can go into criminal law because of my background. Or I'll do something completely different."