Kristy Sasser: “Take every opportunity for knowledge and growth that is offered to you”

UF Police Department Operations Manager and Major Kristy Sasser aspires to be a leader in local law enforcement within the University of Florida and Gainesville communities. Recognizing the need for a competitive advantage, Sasser joined the Managers Cohort, a leadership program that allowed her to build connections and gain new perspectives at work.

Read on to learn more about the impact the Managers Cohort had on Sasser’s professional journey.

Tell us about your professional journey and how you came to be in your current position at the University of Florida.

Beginning in high school, I knew I wanted to be involved in the Criminal Justice System. This led me to pursue a Bachelor of Arts for Criminology at the University of Florida. During my last semester, I completed a general internship with the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office and fell in love with law enforcement. After completing the police academy through Santa Fe College’s Institute of Public Safety, I began my career at the University of Florida Police Department (UFPD). During my 16 years at UFPD, I have been afforded the opportunity to serve in several capacities in various divisions of the agency.

I was hired by the University of Florida Police Department as a law enforcement officer in July of 2007 and was selected for a detective position in the Criminal Investigations Division in December of 2008. While working as a detective, I was assigned the role of backup evidence custodian. In December of 2010, I was promoted to Sergeant and returned to the Patrol Division. As a Sergeant, I completed UF’s Supervisory Challenge.

In August of 2011, I was assigned to the Community Services Division. During my two years in the division, I became a certified Florida Crime Prevention Practitioner, instructed a First Year Florida class and was certified as an instructor for both RAD and radKIDS. I also served as a backup Public Information Officer, conducting media interviews and assisting with Clery Act compliance.

In November of 2013, I returned to the Criminal Investigations Division as a Sergeant and served as secondary member on UF’s Behavioral Consultation Team (BCT). I was promoted to Lieutenant in January of 2014 and again returned to the Patrol Division for three years. During this time, I was also assigned as the Honor Guard Commander and became a Defensive Tactics instructor.

In May of 2017, I was assigned to the Professional Standards Division, responsible for Accreditation and Internal Affairs. I was promoted to Captain in October of 2018, beginning in Support Services and supervising the Professional Standards Division and Community Services Division, which included the School Resource Officer and Office of Victim Services. While in this role, I graduated from the FBI National Academy and completed the Managers Cohort.

In June of 2020, I transitioned into Operations, supervising Patrol and Communications. I returned to BCT as a primary member in this role, and in April of 2022, I received my Master of Public Administration from Liberty University. Upon reorganization of the department a month later, my divisions of responsibility became Patrol, Investigations and Special Events. I was promoted to Operations Major in March of this year, supervising Patrol, Investigations, Special Events and Communications, and am currently a member of the UF Leadership Academy.

What motivated you to participate in the Managers Cohort?

I aspire to be a leader in the local law enforcement, University of Florida, and Gainesville communities. To be a better leader, I believe it is important to continuously learn. I knew the Managers Cohort would be an invaluable experience that would be a part of making me a competitive candidate for future promotions.

How has the Managers Cohort impacted you at a professional and, if applicable, personal level?

I believe the tangible skills I learned in the Managers Cohort helped me be more successful as a leader. For example, I am more purposeful about inviting people with diverse perspectives to join committees. Everyone brings their own experiences and priorities, which helps us make the most informed decisions and avoid potential conflicts. Not only is this more productive, but collaboration improves communication in professional relationships, creating a sense of trust and belonging.

Are there specific resources or connections you made during the program that you found most valuable and why?

In managerial positions, networking is essential for getting stuff done! Knowing the right person in the right place can make the difference for a project. Through the cohort, I learned about new aspects of the university, heard new perspectives and gained new friends. The connection I made with the cohort was an invaluable aspect of the program that I take with me through my career.

How have you applied what you learned in this program in your role as a leader?

The resource that I found most beneficial was the 360-degree assessment. We frequently receive feedback from our supervisors, but we don’t often have an opportunity to hear from our colleagues or direct reports. This assessment provided real insight into how others saw me as a leader. It revealed areas I was performing in better than I thought and areas where I could improve. From this feedback, I created a Leadership Plan, and I constantly refer to that plan to ensure I am staying focused and on-track.

What would you tell a colleague who is considering applying to this program?

Take every opportunity for knowledge and growth that is offered to you! It is easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks, and the Managers Cohort provides an opportunity to reset, remind yourself of what’s important, and re-engage in your leadership journey.

Visit the Managers Cohort website to learn more about the program.