When Greg Gilbertson walks into the classroom, he brings with him a wealth of real-life experience, from his stint in the U.S. Army and early career as a police officer, to training and mentoring law enforcement officials in the Middle East, and even owning a private investigation firm. With all that experience, it’s teaching about it that motivates him. Gilbertson is currently an Adjunct Professor at Brandman University’s Lacey campus, and an Associate Professor at Centralia College, teaching Criminal Justice.
“I know education enables students to pursue their dreams,” said Gilbertson. “I want to inspire self-confidence in students so they know they can do this.”
In Centralia, he sees many students right out of high school, while at Brandman, he teaches working adults, along with those in the military. They have diverse skill sets, and Gilbertson is inspired to meet students at their level.
“I want to challenge them, but not overwhelm them,” said Gilbertson. “I want to challenge them to be successful, and for them to know they can pursue their education and have a great life.”
Gilbertson’s life is interesting and varied, serving first in the U.S. Army for five years as a commissioned officer. He became a police officer in Georgia, a role that he says ‘transformed’ his adult life. Gilbertson took his experience as a police officer, and turned to teaching, first as a senior lecturer of criminal justice at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, then designing the Criminal Justice program at Centralia College, and now at Brandman University. “Adult education is a real privilege, and it’s what enabled me to go overseas,” said Gilbertson.
Gilbertson deployed to war zones two different times, first in Iraq where he served as an International Police Trainer in Baghdad and Basra from 2005 to 2006. Then he deployed again in from 2008 for 13 months to Afghanistan, acting as a Senior Mentor and NATO Liaison to the Afghan National Police Academy. He counts the experience in Afghanistan as a ‘career highlight.’
“I mentored a Lieutenant General there, who was the longest serving police officer in the country,” said Gilbertson. “I had the role of aide and facilitator in which I helped him both understand and negotiate resources for the police academy in Kabul.”
Gilbertson is also a licensed private investigator, and CEO of his own firm. Keeping his hand in investigations and working with criminal defense attorneys allows him to stay up to date. “Criminal justice is constantly changing,” he said. “Getting out and working in the field helps keep me current.”
As a professor who teaches Criminal Justice and Sociology, as well as in Brandman’s Bachelor’s degree program for Organizational Leadership, Gilbertson is able to transmit his enthusiasm for law and law enforcement to students. He sees law enforcement as a ‘helping profession’ and with background in his classes, students can go on to pursue a number of careers.
“I tell my students that a Bachelor’s degree will change their life, while a Master’s degree will make their life,” said Gilbertson. “I’ve been lucky to have the opportunities I’ve had in my career, and I want students to know they can do whatever they want to do.”