May 6, 2024
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The University of West Georgia and the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) recently announced the launch of Georgia STEPPS (Strategic Training and Education Partnership for Public Safety), a groundbreaking program aimed at empowering correctional professionals and staff through education and professional development.

UWG and GDC personnel
UWG and GDC personnel

Scheduled to commence in Fall 2024, Georgia STEPPS represents a collaborative effort between UWG and GDC to provide comprehensive educational opportunities tailored specifically to the needs of corrections officers. 

Spearheading this initiative is Dr. Dave Ayers, a former correctional officer turned assistant professor, who brings firsthand experience and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by individuals working in the corrections system.

“Georgia STEPPS is more than just a program; it’s a testament to our commitment to the academic and professional growth of corrections officers,” said Ayers. “As someone who has walked in their shoes, I understand the importance of providing opportunities for advancement and personal development within the field.”

Through Georgia STEPPS, GDC officers and staff will have access to a diverse range of educational pathways, including Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and NEXUS degree programs, as well as Master of Public Administration degrees. Additionally, Georgia STEPPS will offer Tier I and Tier II teaching certification programs, along with an online teaching certification program, catering to the evolving needs of the corrections workforce.

“This partnership empowers corrections officers, elevates professionalism within correctional facilities, and contributes to the broader goal of rehabilitation and community safety,” said Dr. Jon Preston, UWG provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “By combining academic resources and frontline expertise, this collaboration offers a transformative opportunity for officers to enhance their skills, deepen their understanding of criminal justice principles and critical thinking abilities, and strengthen their preparedness for effective decision-making in complex situations.”

Students in a classroom

The launch of Georgia STEPPS marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to support and empower corrections officers in their pursuit of academic and professional excellence. As the program prepares to welcome its inaugural cohort in Fall 2024, UWG and GDC look forward to making a positive impact on the lives and careers of those who serve in the corrections system.

“This unique partnership signifies our ongoing commitment to ensuring our staff are provided with opportunities for personal and professional development,” said GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver.  “We are excited to be working closely with UWG and we appreciate their support of our staff development and retention efforts.”

For more information about Georgia STEPPS and how to get involved, please visit the program’s website or contact Ayers at