Special Agent Seeks Online Degree

Gibson with Secretary Chertoff
Michael Chertoff (l), former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, awarded William Gibson (r) the Secretary’s Award of Excellence for leading the investigation into a multi-agency, national, drug smuggling and money laundering operation.

As a senior special agent assigned to a high intensity drug trafficking task force at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Office (ICE) in Dallas, William "Billy" Gibson has a busy, erratic work schedule. That's why he opted to pursue his master's degree at Sam Houston State University College of Criminal Justice online.

"With my busy schedule and as hectic as it is at ICE, the online program makes it do-able and feasible to obtain my masters," said Gibson. "As a professional in a working environment, this is very do-able."

Gibson, who got his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from SHSU College of Criminal Justice in 1995, hopes to complete his career at ICE in 20 years and use his master's degree to get a job teaching new criminal justice professionals.

"I want to go back and teach and give back to the next generation of law enforcement," said Gibson.

Gibson is among undergraduate and graduate students at the College of Criminal Justice who are taking advantage of online bachelor and master level programs. The College offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management for active duty Military Police in an online format. The College also offers a bachelor of science in Criminal Justice through the computer-based program.

This spring, the College of Criminal Justice will launch its online bachelor’s degree program, offering 12 core classes to criminal justice majors. The classes are taught by the College’s world renowned faculty.

The online option allows student to complete the program in two years from home or wherever they have access to the internet. The program also uses a student-friendly course delivery and learning platform that includes access to technical support 24-hours a day, each and every day of the week.

"It’s perfect for those that have full-time jobs and can’t find the time to actually go back to college," Gibson said.

Gibson spends his days dismantling high level drug and money laundering operations from the Dallas office, a monumental task with recent drug cartel activities in Mexico. The job is very intense, but sporadic, and often requires travel. He uses downtime on the job to hop in a local Starbucks or hotel to use readily-available Wi-Fi hot spots to do his coursework.

Even with a busy family life, which include football season for his son, Gibson usually is able to slip away in the late evenings to his computer to complete reading and assignment for his two course, which includes Organization and Administration and Legal Aspects of Criminal Justice Management.

"It usually takes 1-1/2 to two hours per night," Gibson said. "I’m sure sometimes it will be more intensive."

Gibson said he already can apply 95 percent of his coursework to his job as acting group supervisor.

"From a manager standpoint, it is applicable and helps me to manage large groups of officers," said Gibson.

When Gibson signed up online, he thought he would miss the camaraderie of the classroom that he enjoyed while pursing his undergraduate degree. Instead, he has built relationships with the other graduate students in his class, which include everyone from recent professionals in the field to a Police Captain in the Houston Police Department who has been on the job since 1977.

"It’s almost like Facebook," said Gibson. "You get to meet the others online. There is a vast array of different perspectives. Everyone brings something new to the table."

While ICE does offer a tuition reimbursement program, Gibson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force for 12 years as part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom, is using the Post 9/11 GI bill and the Texas Hazelwood Act to fund his graduate education.

"My military service is covering all associated cost, minus books," Gibson said.

Gibson began his career with U.S. Customs in 1996, also served as with the U.S. Postal Service of the Inspector General in 1998. He began working at ICE in 2001 and is a member of the Special Response Team. He also served as the featured speaker for SHSU College of Criminal Justice Real Talk Tuesdays in January 2010.

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