Students in the Library

Serve, Lead, &  Protect

Georgia STEPPS is one of Georgia’s most ambitious projects for supporting the success of Georgia’s public safety workforce and our communities. UWG developed this one of a kind program with input from Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Public Safety Training Center, and regional public safety leaders.

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Welcome to the Pack!

GDC employees standing outside the headquarters building for a group photo.

The Georgia Strategic Training and Education Partnership for Public Safety (STEPPS) is a collaborative partnership designed to provide an opportunity for public safety employees to puruse high education.

This partnership allows public safety professionals a unique educational experience and an opportunity to advance their education and careers in highly relevant programs.

This program serves these major purposes:

  1. Provide outstanding and professionally relevant and competitive undergraduate and graduate programs to Georgia’s public safety workforce;
    gdc logo
  2. Streamline pathways to certification and graduation while maximizing cost efficiencies through the public safety partnership and collaboration;
  3. Assist Public Safety employees in meeting educational and training requirements for promotional opportunities.

This public safety partnership specifically provides programs designed to address the needs of Georgia’s Department of Corrections and/or other public safety agencies’ workforce from the front-line officer to executive staff. 

Students with Georgia POST specialized training and other training acquired during their careers can earn credit toward certificates and degrees. Please inquire with the Department of Civic Engagement and Public Service for more information.

Program Opportunities

Will provide a pathway for newly hired correctional staff to work within GDC facilities in non-security posts. This also serves as the foundation for a career in corrections. (More forthcoming soon.)

Provides a collegiate pathway for those interested in pursuing a high-demand career. Nexus Degrees are for individuals who have not earned a college degree, have a degree but want to transition into a high-demand career (e.g., Information Technology, and Cybersecurity), and/or have a need for a targeted workforce credential to advance in their careers.

View USG Nexus Degree

Offers a program of study organized around a theme and grounded in two desciplines. Interdisciplinary Studies offers multiple pathways for study, including Forensic Science and Investigations, Data Science, Natural Resource Management, and Public Safety. This degree can benefit those seeking careers in federal, state, and local government as well as business and nonprofit organizations.

View BIS Program

Will offer current GDC educators the opportunity to earn their Tier I and Tier II Educational Leadership Certification.

View Tier I Program

View Tier II Program

The Online Teaching Certificate is designed for students working in non-K-12 environments (i.e., higher education, industry, military) who wish to improve their online design and facilitation competencies.

View Online Teaching Certificate

This is an opportunity for GDC staff to earn a masters degree and to potentially earn Georgia POST credit.

View MPA Program

Offers GDC educators and counselors an opportunity to become certified professional counselors in the state of Georgia. Earning this certification will give GDC Care and Treatment staff the skills to provide high quality educational and rehabilitative services to their supervised populations.

View School Counseling Concentration

View Clinical Mental Health Counseling Concentration

Credit Hours

Group of GDC cadets being sworn in.

Credit for POST Training

Students can earn credit toward certificates and their degree based on Georgia POST training, BCOT training, and other training acquired during their career.  Please inquire with the Department of Civic Engagement and Public Service for more information.


Left sleeve of a Georgia Department of Correction (GDC) employee showing the GDC patch on the sleeve.

Program Benefits

Developing a more professionalized workforce improves public safety in Georgia, protects our communities, and assists in the supervision, care and treatment, educational instruction, and rehabilitation of the population correctional officers oversee.

UWG Alumni Stories

Jami Sailors wearing his police uniform.

"I graduated in 2016 with a Master of Arts in Criminology and I found not just an education but a community of dedicated faculty and staff who guided me with expertise and passion. Their commitment to fostering growth and intellectual curiosity propelled me to new heights. Since earning my degree, the impact on my career has been profound. Equipped with cutting-edge knowledge and valuable skills, I've navigated professional challenges with confidence and achieved milestones I once only dreamed of."

- Jami Sailors, 2016 alum

Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell wearing a suit for a professional headshot.

Michael McDowell began his journey at the University of West Georgia in 2010. As a student, McDowell served as a student athlete, ambassador, joined dozens of clubs and community service programs, and became widely known as Mike on the Bike by the entire UWG community. McDowell was hired by the Carrollton Police Department in 2015 and served as the agency's premier community relations officer until January of 2022. McDowell was then hired by the Carroll County Sheriff's Office as its Community Program Coordinator. In addition to his public service efforts with the Sheriff's Office, McDowell still contributed to the success of UWG students by working as an online adjunct instructor, serving on the Alumni Association Board, and volunteering time as a mentor. In July 2022, McDowell was hired by the United States Marshals Service as a Deputy US Marshal Candidate and relocated to the Pacific Northwest in January 2023 to serve as a Deputy US Marshal in Washington State.

Alumni Stories

Picture of Dave Ayers

Dave Ayers is a lifelong resident of the West Georgia. Dave began working as a correctional officer in 2001. During this time, he moved through the ranks and approached about taking a position as counselor. In 2008, Dave completed his B.S. in criminology. Dave then enrolled in the criminology Masters program and completed it in 2011.

By this time Dave had a decade of experience working in the prison system. Dave had the unique combination of educational degrees and experience in the field. The university recognized this combination and offered Dave the opportunity to make a career move into academia. Dave earned his Ph.D. from Kennesaw State University in 2019. Since moving to academia, Dave has dedicated most of his time towards developing programs and classes that offer students education based on experiential learning. In addition, Dave has played a vital role in developing partnerships between UWG and public safety organizations.

Contact Information


Dr. Dave Ayers
Location: Pafford 221

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