Joseph Weeks is ahead of schedule for earning his Master of Public Administration from Wright State University.
While that by itself is noteworthy, it’s what he plans to do with that degree that’s outstanding: catch criminals and help others heal from mental trauma.
Weeks’ journey to Wright State is unusual. He comes to Wright State by playing drums in a church band with a university professor who saw that Weeks would be a good fit.
Weeks, a Dayton native and who lives in Englewood, is a sergeant with the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Piqua District Criminal Patrol Unit, which oversees the K9 section and works with a variety of local and federal law enforcement partner agencies.
Weeks joined the highway patrol in 2011 after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Otterbein College.
His decision to seek an advanced degree was in large part painfully personal.
“I’ve been involved with three dramatic criminal incidents in my career that caused me a lot of personal trauma,” Weeks said.
That was in addition to responding to horrific highway crashes and having to notify the victim’s next of kin.
“That’s all very taxing,” he said.
“One of the things I learned in post-traumatic care was to find something to challenge yourself and push forward. That’s what gets you through the day,” he said.
Weeks also wanted to set an example for his daughter Abbie, 15, and son Andrew, 11, with his wife, Jennifer.
“I wanted to show them that you’re never done learning and that you can accomplish a lot if you put forth the effort,” he said. “For me, that was the bigger reason, to dig into something to better myself.”
His path to Wright State began at another of his passions, playing drums in a church praise band at Salem Church of God in Clayton.
“It was one of those God moments when someone was put in your life for a reason,” he said.
That someone was an occasional band member, Lee Hannah, Ph.D., professor of political science at Wright State who plays electric guitar.
Weeks told Hannah about his desire to earn a master’s degree.
“When he heard of my background,” Weeks recalled, “he said it would be a good fit for me and for the university.”
Weeks agreed. “Wright State is one of the few universities that still had in-person classes that I could attend,” he said.
Another university he considered offered classes only online.
He enrolled in Wright State in the summer of 2022, thinking he would need two years to earn his MPA.
“But I buckled down and took classes to finish in 18 months,” he said, and now expects to graduate this spring.
During the Master of Public Administration program, Weeks is researching methods to conduct surveys and analyze an organization to make changes. His elective courses have been geared toward criminal justice, terrorism and counterterrorism in modern law enforcement.
Earning a master’s degree is key to his future career advancement; he is in a promotional process to be a lieutenant.
But above the personal benefit, the education he is receiving will allow him to help others deal with personal trauma. Weeks wants to work with Forged In Fire Worship, a nonprofit agency that helps first responders and military veterans who have mental trauma. He plans to use his drumming and his faith to help them.
“I’ve been playing drums for 25 to 30 years. It’s therapeutic,” he said.
He wants to teach those who have mental health issues to play drums and introduce them to faith.
“Playing in a group through a worship music setting can be helpful,” he said.
His Wright State experience has been challenging but rewarding.
“Every single professor is knowledgeable and passionate. All have been understanding and easy to talk with,” Weeks said.
The praise goes both ways.
“Joe is a model student and an incredible human being,” said Daniel Warshawsky, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and director of the Master of Public Administration program. “He is very diligent with his coursework, and he has leveraged his real-world experience to mentor younger MPA students who are seeking guidance in their careers. In this way, Joe thrives in the MPA program’s group-oriented classes as his social intelligence and vast experiences can be shared with faculty, students and the broader community.”