Seattle Police Officer Mike Gore Returns to College to Earn Master’s Degree Online

Mike Gore had already experienced amazing moments in his life and career before finding his true calling six years ago in the Seattle Police Department.

“I never thought I’d be a police officer,” he said. “I wanted to go into politics, which I was able to do. I got to be deputy press secretary for the mayor of Seattle, and I interned in media affairs at the White House. It was amazing.

“I thought my life was going to keep going in that direction. The police department hired me to an intergovernmental affairs position for Chief Kathleen O’Toole, a visionary in modern policing. When I went on ride-a-longs with the officers to learn more about the work they did, I knew, ‘This is what I have to do.'”

Gore is on track to graduate from the online Master of Science – Organizational Leadership program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in August 2022.

“I decided to do this program because, as policing changes and communities expect different things from police organizations, there need to be leaders who are adaptable, flexible and manage the people on the front lines effectively,” he said.

After researching programs at several universities, Gore zeroed in on the fledgling online organizational leadership program at EWU.

“I am a big believer that public schools have some of the best value education,” he said. “I always believe in rooting for the little guy. Eastern has a solid reputation. This program is affordable. I also like the class sizes.”

The flexibility of the accelerated online format has helped Gore stay in the program and work toward completion.

“With the right amount of focus and knowledge of your limits, Eastern makes it doable to do the coursework at a pace you’re comfortable with,” he said. “I have had classmates take a semester off. It’s adaptable to life’s twists and turns.”

Over the past six years, Gore, like many other first responders, has experienced trauma at work that has fundamentally changed him. “I came to a point where I realized that doing things the same way – in life, at work – wasn’t working.”

Native Son

Gore is from the Seattle area, where he became an endurance mountain bike racer for Marin Bikes for four years. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Western Washington University in 2014.

“Being a police officer is like being a reporter,” he said. “You’re empowered to fix things by being a social worker, fact-finder and a person who stands up for others.”

After six months as a White House intern, Gore went to work for his hometown police department. He enrolled at EWU in September 2021.

Interacting with classmates from across the country is one of the aspects of the online M.S. in Organizational Leadership program he enjoys most.

“I have gotten to know people in my area, including people in police departments across the state who I would not have known otherwise,” he said. “We share ideas and talk about real-world implementation.”

That interaction extends beyond his colleagues working in police departments to people from different walks of life looking to lead within their organizations.

So far, Leadership for Social Justice is Gore’s favorite course in the curriculum.

“It was about understanding each person you are leading, working for or mentoring and who they are,” he said. “Everything is so data-driven now, understanding humanity and nuance is becoming a more vital skill in all professional settings.”

“It’s about, ‘Why are organizations doing the things they are doing? What life experiences do they have that might be different from yours? In what ways can you build consensus?’ It was fascinating.”

Hot Pursuit

Gore has had plenty of encouragement from his family members on this return to higher education. Most of them have advanced degrees, and education was always valued and encouraged.

“I was the person you’d never think would go back to school,” he said with a laugh. “In college, I was a mountain biker. In high school, I was a bike mechanic. School wasn’t exactly my forte.”

“Now, I’m getting good grades. People are seeing the changes in how I react to things. I got more out of the program than I expected.”

Once Gore completes the master’s degree, he will go to Cheney and walk the graduation stage to celebrate his newest major accomplishment.

“I’d like to meet the people who have been so gracious with their time, instruction and experience,” he said. “I owe them a lot, and being able to meet them would be a nice way to bookend this accomplishment and give me a boost moving forward.”

“The professors made genuine efforts to build connection, foster inclusion and tailor the program to each student’s goals and strengths.”

Although Gore does not have an ultimate career goal in mind, he believes that having the M.S. in Organizational Leadership will open more opportunities in his career.

“This program has brought clarity around who I want to be in my career,” he said. “What legacy do I want to leave behind? If I leave policing, how can I use my talents and skills to help other people? That’s been very helpful.”

Gore is grateful for his experience at EWU. His advice to potential students in the program is to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.

“Leadership isn’t a trait — it’s a set of skills, a set of behaviors…a way of living. Being a manager isn’t a promotion — it’s a privilege,” he said. “You owe it to yourself and those you work with to be the best you can be.”

“You can learn how to do that with intention, passion and an investment in yourself. This return on investment has been second to none in my professional life.”

Learn more about EWU’s online M.S. – Organizational Leadership program.

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