Skills Developed in GWU Criminal Justice Program Benefit Alumnus Throughout Career

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Terry Sult ’00 Has Served in Law Enforcement in North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia 

Since earning his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Gardner-Webb University in 2000, Terry Sult, police chief of Hampton, Va., has served in four towns, each with different needs. His GWU studies helped him developed the skills needed to adapt to new situations, analyze problems and propose solutions.

“The bachelor’s degree provides you with a broader view of the world and lets you look at things from a different plateau,” Sult observed. “You have the ability to see what you couldn’t see before. You no longer think with tunnel vision of what is right in front of you. Now, all of a sudden, you are thinking about factors that are directly influenced by what you are doing, as well as indirectly influenced.”

Shortly after he started classes through the GWU Degree Completion Program, Sult was promoted to the rank of captain in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Department (CMPD). “The degree jumpstarted my career,” he affirmed. “A four-year degree makes a difference in your salary, but salary has never been what it’s about for the job. It’s about your promotability and being able to more easily attain your goals.”

Sult knew from the time he was a youngster that he wanted to be a police officer. He joined the Police Explorers at age 14 and became a volunteer police dispatcher with the Mecklenburg County (N.C.) Police Department. He was hired by the Charlotte Police Department in 1977 as a full-time police dispatcher and one year later became a sworn officer.

He appreciated the GWU course schedule and liked his diverse cohort. “The classes were presented in a methodical order,” he explained. “There was a group who went through the whole process together. With your teammates, the discussions in the classes built upon each other. Everybody has the same instruction, and everybody is engaged in the same conversations. The debate you were having in the last class, you could pick up in the next class. Everybody was involved in it, and there was a common frame of reference.”

Sult put his studies to work with CMPD during and after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. As commander of Charlotte’s Central District, he developed security and preparedness planning for the second largest banking center in the United States and home to the Carolina Panthers National Football League (NFL) team. While serving in this position, Sult also earned his MBA. Later, he coordinated numerous special events, including those related to the Carolina Panthers’ participation in the 2004 NFL Super Bowl game.

He left Charlotte in 2004 to become chief of police for the city of Gastonia, N.C., where he served for over four years. He supervised 170 sworn and 37 full- and part-time civilian employees as well as a budget of $15.5 million. He moved to Sandy Springs, Ga., in 2008 to accept the position of police chief, and in March 2013 was promoted to director of public safety, coordinating services for police, fire and emergency management. He accepted his current position in Hampton in October 2013.