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Class of 2009: College of Public Programs

Brett Kugler graduated from the College of Public Programs
May 05, 2014

Economy altered graduate’s career path, but not determination

Brett Kugler aspired to be in federal law enforcement. He earned a 4.0 GPA and was a member of several honor societies when he graduated in May 2009 from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University.

But the great recession altered his career plans. Budget cuts at local and state law enforcement agencies made competition for federal jobs even more difficult. It would normally take a week or two for the U.S. Marshal’s Service to receive its limit of 5,000 applications for open positions. Kugler saw an opening close within a matter of hours.

“I worked tirelessly to finish near the top of my graduating class to propel me into contention for federal law enforcement positions,” says Kugler. “The economic crash of 2008 all but dried up local police positions, leaving an untold number of qualified individuals seeking careers in alternate field- – making federal employment all but a fantasy.”

So, he turned his attention to graduate school and enrolled in one of the top programs in the country at the University of Cincinnati. He felt a master’s degree would give him an advantage in the federal application process. Then, just months before graduating, federal law enforcement agencies put all hiring on hold as federal budget negotiations broke down in Washington D.C. To say Kugler was disappointed would be an understatement. He was forced to look for other options.

“I decided to take a risk and apply to several local police departments in some of the most violent cities in the country,” Kugler says.

He was hired by the Memphis Police Department, the sixth most dangerous city in United States at the time based on FBI Crime Index data. Kugler graduated first in his police academy class, including its top marksman. He still faced the challenge of policing in an environment he wasn't at all familiar with.

“The risk was well worth it,” says the Arizona native. “I feel blessed to be a police officer in one of the most challenging urban environments in the country.”

Kugler says he made his share of mistakes as a rookie, but credits his success to his education and training by professional and patient mentors. And he never stopped learning. Every day, Kugler utilizes new skills he learned on the job, such as reading deception. Ultimately, Kugler knows he can help remove dangerous people from communities and even save lives.

“It's difficult to describe the feeling an officer experiences in a foot chase with a suspect, responding to an officer screaming for help, or heading to a shooting, and still able to keep his composure and speak professionally and articulately on the radio,” says Kugler. “I'm thankful for my mentors.”

Through the years, Kugler has worked in several fields, including fast food, customer service, and the hospitality industry. He knows the great recession altered his original career path, but he’s thankful for where he ended up.

“Public service has been the biggest honor of my life and I can attribute it, in part, to Arizona State University and the skills I learned as an undergraduate student.”

Tourism graduate finds fulfillment in new field and city

Amaroney Thach listened intently as President Barack Obama delivered the commencement address at his graduation in May 2009. 

At the time, the nation was in the midst of the worst economic recession since the great depression. Arizona was one of the hardest hit states. The unemployment rate topped 10 percent and the home foreclosure rate was fourth highest among the 50 states. President Obama warned students they would have to adapt as they launched their careers.

“I shifted careers drastically,” says Thach, who earned a bachelor of science in tourism development and management and was named an “Outstanding Graduate” from the College of Public Programs. 

Thach chose his major based on his experience after living as a foreign exchange student in Sydney, Australia. After graduation, he pursued a career in the nonprofit sector, but has changed jobs six times.

“I'm not ashamed to say that I'm still searching for my dream job,” Thach says. “I believe in not settling with comfort, but finding a job that will stimulate me intellectually and challenge me.”

A first-generation college graduate, Thach ended up going back to school in 2012 to earn a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan.

“I left mid semester because it wasn't a great fit for me,” says Thach. “That led me to pursue my back-up graduate school at University of Washington.” 

But, Thach didn’t pursue the same degree in Seattle. He wants to develop his creative talents, which come natural, so he is seeking a master of communication in digital media. Thach works full time as a scholarship coordinator at South Seattle Community College while taking a full class load. He expects to graduate this fall.

“It’s important to me to find a career that I look forward to doing every day,” Thach says. “If that doesn't work out, start your own business. That's where I am today. I want to work for myself and have full creative reign.”     

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Thach moved with his family to Phoenix when he was ten. He knew working in the tourism industry would provide opportunities to work in other places, but he never thought he would be pursuing a different career in a city like Seattle.

“The entire experience of moving to Seattle and pursuing a graduate degree in a different college from my Alma Mater is highly rewarding,” Thach says. “I get a new perspective on life. Plus, moving to new city lends itself to new opportunities.”