Ryan and Kayla Harp

MPA 2016 & 2017
at City of Naples Police Dept. and Collier County Sheriff's Office

As husband and wife, Ryan and Kayla Harp have shared a similar journey. As military veterans, law enforcement officials and three-time Hodges alumni, they are a powerhouse couple who are securing their futures now with their education from Hodges University.

Enlisting in the United States Army in 2006, the two met while stationed in Fort Still, Oklahoma, and worked as correctional officers in the Joint Regional Correctional Facility. After a year and a half, Ryan changed his military occupational specialty (MOS) to military police – a choice that would prove beneficial when transitioning to civilian life.

Marrying in November 2007, they moved to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and Kayla worked in the United States Disciplinary Barracks, which is the only military maximum security prison. Ryan, who eventually earned the title of sergeant, attended various schools to obtain additional knowledge and skills relating to his work as a military police officer.

Leaving the military life behind her in 2009, Kayla continued to serve in a supportive role for Ryan, who received an honorable discharge in 2011.

Harps-Kayla“I always knew that I wanted to earn a degree, but I needed to find the time and money to do it. When my husband and I both were out of the Army, we decided it was time to get our degrees,” said Kayla.

When the couple moved from Kansas to Florida to be closer to family, Ryan’s brother, Derek Harp, told the two about Hodges University. Hearing of Derek’s great experience, they visited the school and enrolled in May 2011. Reflecting on their time in the Army and the experience they gained working as military police, they decided to pursue their Associate in Science in criminal justice. Earning their degrees in August 2012, they didn’t stop there. Instead, they continued onto the bachelor’s program in criminal justice.

“I choose to pursue my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice because I wanted to further my education in the career path I am in,” said Ryan. “I want to have the knowledge to be able to perform my duties to the best of my abilities. Seeking my degree helped in this.”

For Kayla, a bachelor’s degree seemed like the natural next step after earning her associate. Enjoying the small classes and personalized approach from professors, she said, “I really enjoyed my criminal justice class professors because they would share their personal experiences with the class and relate it to the material we were learning.”

In 2014, after earning their bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, the Harps took some time off from school to focus on their careers. Kayla serves as a jail deputy for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. Working in the housing department, she is responsible for maintaining control of the female inmates. Ryan is a police officer with the City of Naples Police Department and works as a traffic investigation motor officer in the special operations division of the traffic department.

Aspiring to grow within their respective careers, they began to discuss the idea of returning to school to earn a master’s degree. While Kayla knew her decision would be to return to Hodges, Ryan was close to considering another school; however, reflecting on his experience, he opted to pursue his master’s in public administration (MPA) at Hodges because of the UPOWER™ option.

Harps-Ryan“The UPOWER™ program was laid out very easily. It made taking the classes stress-free because you knew what you had to do to complete the class,” he explained. Following in his footsteps, Kayla enrolled in the UPOWER™ MPA program in November 2016, saying, “I was focused on getting the program completed within my six-month subscription, so on my days off, I would be working on my classes. For the six months, I really did not have much free time. Writing the papers and the PowerPoint presentations are what took up most of the time, and of course, reading all of the material.”

While taking classes on campus and online during their undergraduate programs, UPOWER™ presented a new and flexible option that was convenient for their schedules. As a self-paced option for students, the new format required additional dedication and commitment, and as Kayla explains, “Time management is the most important thing in order to be successful. You have to know that you can get it done in six months if you really focus on your schoolwork.”

Driven to complete the program in six months, the two worked hard to manage their time between work and school, and while UPOWER™ removes the face-to-face interaction, the connection to their professors remained strong, such as with Dr. Donald Forrer. “I liked how he would send out his weekly emails of encouragement, and he always said if we had a question, we could call him directly,” said Kayla.

Ryan completed his master’s in May 2016, and Kayla recently finished hers in April 2017. With each possessing three degrees, they appreciate what their undergraduate degrees have done in assisting them in their current positions; however, with regard to their graduate degrees, they look forward to the possibilities and opportunities ahead in either promotion or retirement. 

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