When Russ Gilliland joined the ranks at the Maggie Valley Police Department for the second time, he knew he would not be promoted without furthering his education. He turned to Haywood Community College’s criminal justice program to get an associate degree.

“Since I was working when I decided to go back to school,” Gilliland explains, “it was convenient for me to take classes here in the county. The College is very credible and the instructors are very knowledgeable.”

After finishing HCC in 2015, Gilliland continued his education at Western Carolina University where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2017. The education paid off when he became chief of the Maggie Valley Police Department that same year.

Gilliland says that working in criminal justice is a way to serve the people while making the community safer. “I like to think that I am helping bring peace to the community one case at a time. I know the people in the community and they know me. We have mutual respect and care for each other.”

Gilliland says the education he received at HCC not only helped him be successful at WCU, but also in the field every day. From applying what he learned in math and English for writing reports to understanding community policing in a small town, Gilliland recognizes that the curriculum is designed to fit the needs of those in the field. 

According to Chris Wyatt, HCC criminal justice program manager and instructor, “The Criminal Justice Department at HCC utilizes the experiences of different instructors to give students a variety of viewpoints on the profession. This helps to make our students well-rounded individuals that enables them to overcome any obstacle that presents itself.”

This approach seems to pay off for graduates when they move on to other endeavors after HCC, whether they continue their education, enter the workforce, or enroll in HCC’s Basic Law Enforcement Training Program.

“I had a great experience at HCC,” Gilliland says. “The instructors worked with me and the flexible schedule allowed me to take classes in person and online.”   

HCC’s criminal justice program is fully transferable to WCU. In addition to an associate degree, the College offers short courses and certifications for those already working in the field, including certificates in cybercrime, emergency management and investigations. For more information about HCC’s criminal justice program, contact us at hcc-advising@haywood.edu or 828-627-2821.