There was no requirement for an advanced degree to rise in the ranks of the Fairfax County Police Department, but Erin Schaible, MPA ’07, went for her master’s degree anyway, despite having three children under the age of 5 and working months-long overnight shifts.
“It was a bucket-list sort of thing,” she says. “It seems really intimidating to get your master’s, but I like challenges.”
Mason’s professors and her county supervisors provided crucial flexibility, she says. Still, it wasn’t easy: “I vividly remember a warm summer night on the top floor of a parking garage—because you never want to be in a position where people can sneak up on you—and doing my statistics homework at three in the morning,” she says with a laugh.
A study-abroad component to the degree took her to the Netherlands, where she saw firsthand how government agencies can work in tandem. “For me, that was really powerful,” she says.
The degree helped her rise to the rank of deputy chief of patrol, a position that had her serving as the commander of the largest police patrol contingent in the state. She was the first female law enforcement professional to do so. She retired last year after 28 years, but retirement was short. In January 2019, she was named the chief of police for the City of Fairfax Police Department and is, again, the first woman to hold the office.
Schaible, whose department includes 66 sworn officers and 23 civilians, maintains a close relationship with Mason, given that the Fairfax Campus sits on the edge of the City of Fairfax. “She’s also very supportive of our current MPA students and helps plan our Local Government Night, which brings regional leaders to meet with students,” says Mason public administration professor James Burroughs.
Is a PhD in Schaible’s future? “It’s a possibility,” she says. “The kids are older, but my hands are still full.”