Durant Police Department officer Scott Phelps has a plan. He has a backup plan, too.
“I honestly don’t want to stay in law enforcement forever,” he said. “I’d like to be a professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, either as an adjunct and go to the state police academy and run it, or as a full-time professor. I kind of have a contingency plan if one doesn’t work out.”
Phelps graduated from the Southeastern Oklahoma online Master of Business Administration in Human Resources program in 2017. He then immediately began to work on a doctorate in education at Abilene Christian University.
“To advance my career, I have to get higher education,” he said. “My dad [Alan Hoge] did 20 years in the Army. Once he retired, he went back and got an accounting degree. We kind of feed off one another, I guess. He made the running joke, ‘I guess I’ll have to go get my MBA.’ Then, I’ll work on my doctorate so he can work on it, too.”
Phelps is now a two-time SOSU alumnus, having earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the university in 2005. Four years after graduation, he became a police officer after a stint as an assistant manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
“I was always interested in law enforcement,” he said. “I’ve got a whole family tree full of military servants, but I wanted to go the degree route, and I got the business degree as a fallback, essentially in case I were to get hurt. I wasn’t intending to stay in business my entire career.”
From Germany to Oklahoma
Phelps was born in Wetzlar, Germany, where he lived until his family moved to Oklahoma when he was 13 years old.
“I was already a U.S. citizen,” he said. “My mom [Anja Hoge] is German, so I held dual citizenship until I was 18. My dad got stationed at Fort Sill [in Oklahoma].”
Not surprisingly, Phelps had a pretty serious period of adjustment to life in the United States.
“It was kind of a culture shock, honestly,” he said. “I grew up in a town that wasn’t overly big, but it was bigger than what I moved to. I also wasn’t very fluent in English, so it was somewhat intimidating at first. I had problems communicating because they spoke a lot faster than I was accustomed to.”
Phelps said he has not been back to Germany in nearly 20 years.
“My mom has been back a few more times,” he said. “I eventually want to get back, once my obligations here settle down a little bit.”
SOSU, Part Zwei
Phelps finally decided he would return to SOSU for a master’s degree in March 2016. However, he had to settle on which MBA concentration he would earn before he started that summer.
“I really didn’t know what to get into,” he said. “MBA Director Robert Howard, who is my adviser, gave me a crash course on what to expect. Any time anybody does that, it’s still cloudy, no matter what anybody says. I was kind of going into it blind, but I got more out of it than I thought I was going to.”
With his schedule, Phelps said the online format was essential.
“It’s a lot of sleepless days,” he said. “I definitely had to schedule everything. It balanced out most of the time. I do a rotating shift every four months. From January through the first of May, I was on night shift. Now, I’m on mid shift, which is three to eleven. Then, I go to day shift. While I was on night shift, there were a lot of times I was studying and doing my homework in the middle of the night. It was long, but it was worth it.”
Even though he is a law officer, Phelps said the HR-focused MBA curriculum provided him with plenty of job-relevant knowledge.
“We’ve talked about a lot of people management topics that I’ve used since in different classes, like Supervisory Management [MNGT 5443],” Phelps said. “Really, running a police department or running a shift is no different than running a business. I don’t have to work on financial statements and such, but the people management is the same.”
Phelps said he also thoroughly enjoyed the first course he took in the MBA program, Contemporary Issues [MNGT 5453], taught by Howard.
“I liked it because we did more discussion work than anything,” he said. “It was very applicable to today’s problems. It was my first class, so I learned probably the most from it.”
Phelps added that all of the effort and hard work it takes to earn an MBA online is well worth the end result.
“There are times when you’re going to think, ‘I can’t handle all of this,'” he said. “At one time, you’re probably going to fail or not do as well as you thought you would. You’ve got to stick it out, talk to the professors. They’re all very open to talk to you and help you. They’re not in it to fail you. You are just going to have to persevere and fight through it.”
What Kind of Expert?
In addition to his normal duties as a police officer, Phelps is also a drug recognition expert.
“If Officer A or Officer B goes to a car crash or pulls somebody over and believes the said person is impaired, they do the breathalyzer test, and if it shows nothing, the person could still be impaired — pills and meth don’t show up on a breathalyzer test,” he explained.
“They call me to do an evaluation on those people and say, ‘Yeah, in my expert opinion, they are, in fact, impaired or under the influence — and these are the drug categories. It’s pretty awesome the way the program works.”
To become a drug recognition expert, Phelps said he had to attend a rigorous six months of school with extensive testing and a clinical phase in Oklahoma City for certification.
“I had to go to the county jail and do clinicals on able and willing people who are impaired in some way, shape or form by drugs,” he said. “After giving them an assessment, we have to say they’re on this particular drug category or categories. Most people take two different drug categories. Becoming a drug recognition expert is widely considered the toughest academic program for any law enforcement professional, so I wanted that challenge. I was probably considered because they knew I was pretty good academically.”
Phelps isn’t sure how long he’ll remain in law enforcement, but he knows he will have the education to go in whichever direction his career takes him. Until then, the single dad just wants to be with his sons every opportunity he gets.
“The number one thing is spending time with my two boys, Bryce (7) and Caleb (12),” he said. “I preach higher education to them as much as I see them.”
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA with an emphasis in Human Resources program.
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