Corey Saffold spends much of his days centered around education – if he’s not at the Verona Area High School, he’s doing online learning for his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
And even though regular classes aren’t in session, Saffold, Interim Director of Safety and Security for Verona Area School District, is still learning.
In June, Saffold was named a University of Wisconsin System Regent, joining 17 other Regents as the non-traditional student representative. The Board of Regents governs over the state-wide University of Wisconsin System and addresses the needs of the 13 universities, sets admission standards and approves university budgets, according to the UW Regent website.
“I’m still learning how to fit in, in a way that … I can lend my lens to,” Saffold said. “The thing I’m looking forward to right now is learning – I just want to learn the process and make positive connections so I can make those best decisions.”
The Regents convene eight times a year, and serve without pay. Saffold’s student seat, as well as the traditional student seat reserved for students who attend the UW System right after high school graduation, are for two years; the other seats, minus two seats given to the state superintendent and the chair of the state technical college board, are seven-year terms.
Saffold, a former City of Madison police officer and school resource officer who now coordinates the VAHS security team and has led the development of multiple security initiatives for the high school and the district, studies criminology at UW-Whitewater. Saffold completes his classes online, taking a couple classes at a time to make his education manageable with his full-time career and other responsibilities.
Saffold put his name in the running to be a UW Regent when he learned there was an opening, and was selected after interviewing with the board. Interviewees asked Saffold what ideas he had to make the university system and state better.
He said he spoke heavily about the experience of being a non-traditional student, and what kind of recruitment efforts could be used to bring in other non-traditional students, students of color and other diverse backgrounds.
Following the interview process, Saffold was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers – the former VASD superintendent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. On June 1, Evers nominated three Regents – Saffold, attorney Amy Blumenfeld Bogost and entrepreneur Kyle Weatherly – to replace three whose terms had expired.
“I am confident in these three Regents and their ability to tackle the challenges ahead of us and ensure the continued success of not only the System, but of the Wisconsin Idea,” Evers said in a news release.
Saffold said he felt honored when he was selected to serve on the UW Regents. Since joining, Saffold’s been kept busy getting to know as many aspects of the UW System as possible, as well as seeing the big picture of the UW System.
“I’m ready to go in and learn as much as possible, get to know my fellow Regents, roll up my sleeves and get to work,” he told the Press in mid-June. “As a Regent, we don’t represent one school, it’s not just Madison or Whitewater. We have to look at the big picture for the entire System, and how the System enhances the state.”
Saffold started studying criminology at UW-Whitewater while he was still a police officer, because he was interested in the driving factors behind why people commit crimes – whether it’s being driven by a person’s environment, mental health issues or societal factors like the economy.
Criminology questions the history that might have driven a person’s decision-making, rather than judge the action like it’s an isolated incident, Saffold said.
“It’s not so much a study of the system as it is the person,” he said. “It’s the study of why people do what they do, why do people commit crimes?”
Understanding criminology, and other aspects of sociology and anthropology that go along with it, helps Saffold have better interactions with the district’s students.
“As a school district, we are affected by society as a trickle-down effect,” he said. “It’ll help me provide an overall better understanding of how to respond in my job – how to respond to students, how to respond to their families in a way that’s more comprehensive, that understands the big picture better.”
Saffold said one of the programs he focused on during his interview was the UW Odyssey Project, a six-credit English Literature course offered at University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The program takes a “whole family approach” to breaking cycles of generational poverty by allowing low-income adults to access education and helping them start a future college career, the Odyssey Project’s website states.
The project provides childcare for families through its Odyssey Junior program, and has an additional division that brings educational experiences to people incarcerated in Wisconsin prisons by allowing them to take UW-Madison courses to provide professional development to help them when they re-enter society.
Saffold graduated from the Odyssey Project in 2006 prior to working at the Madison Police Department. Classes were held every Wednesday, where students were able to learn, eat dinner together and have any child care needs taken care of, he said – and 90% of those people go on to get their degrees at a UW System school.
“Essentially what you have is a mechanism already in place to recruit and retain non-traditional students that complete their degree at the UW System, in a time when the traditional student numbers are declining,” he said.