Using Criminal Justice Degree, Navy Vet Loves Serving His Community
Meet Sebastian Andrews, a Navy veteran whose criminal justice degree from Saint Leo University has helped him succeed in an emergency management career.
Sebastian Andrews has a passion for lending a hand to help those around him. The U.S. Navy veteran who served 24 years has taken what he learned from his Saint Leo University criminal justice degree program to put it to good use in an emergency management career.
Andrews, who affectionately goes by “Seabass,” originally hails from Pittsburgh, PA. The 49-year-old now lives in Virginia Beach, VA. His son, Jordan, is 26 and followed in his dad’s footsteps to now serve in the Navy himself.
According to Andrews, his circumstances coming out of high school in the western Pennsylvania region led him to pursue military service.
“I had a sense of wanting to serve my country,” he says. “At the time, Pittsburgh was going through a bit of a transition from a blue-collar to a white-collar town. A lot of blue-collar jobs at steel mills were moving out.”
Unsure of his future, he decided to visit a local military recruiting office.
“The recruiter asked if I wanted to come have juice and donuts,” he recalls. “He told me I could work on ships and see the world. It sounded very captivating to me.”
At age 18, he enlisted in the Navy in 1991. A Navy chief petty officer rising to the rank of E7, He served as a yeoman.
“I mainly worked as an office manager on ships,” he says. “I also did a lot of antiterrorism work.”
Being part of a unit was what he enjoyed most about the experience, he says. In 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines and caused catastrophic damage. Andrews and his unit were able to bring some relief to the islands.
“We were able to provide fresh water and other provisions to those affected,” he recounts. “Being part of that operation was very rewarding.”
He retired from the Navy in 2015. And what did he learn most while serving?
“The biggest thing I learned was working with all types of people,” he says. “Coming together to work and learn with each other to achieve common goals is what it was all about.”
While still serving, Andrews attained an associate degree online from Excelsior College [now Excelsior University] in 2015. He then began the search to find a bachelor’s degree program and discovered Saint Leo University. Some fellow sailors had also pursued degrees from the school.
“They said they really enjoyed it,” he explains. “They especially liked the eight-week terms and flexibility of the programs. I liked how the university was ranked among the best colleges for military members and veterans.”
He chose the BS in criminal justice focusing on homeland security. When the university had brick-and-mortar education centers around Virginia, he attended locations in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake.
“I wanted to continue to have the ability to serve my community. This was something I missed after retiring from the military. The homeland security specialization sounded very interesting to me. Having experience in antiterrorism and counterintelligence in the military made it a good fit.”
He started the program in the summer of 2019. He says that the online platform for his classes was very easy to use and navigate. While he can say positive things about the numerous professors he had in the program, a few went above and beyond.
“Dr. [Nancy] Santiago was amazing,” he says. “She would give you so much info that you just weren’t trying if you didn’t get a decent grade in her courses. She gave you all of the feedback and resources necessary in order to get the highest grade possible. Yet, at the same time, she was the most challenging professor I had.”
Dr. Michael Singer was also memorable to him.
“He made learning fun. He really brought us into his background in criminal justice, and he brings everything together without relying too much on the textbook. He really made it easy for us as students.”
Outside of his core courses in the criminal justice degree program, He also enjoyed a class on the history of rock and roll and a philosophy course that opened his mind about religion in many ways.
He adds that most of his professors responded to emails within 12 to 16 hours. In addition, many held weekly Zoom sessions outside of their normal classes where they would be available to answer students’ questions.
“You would get real-time, constructive feedback,” he says. They would give you individual feedback and how to improve things in your assignments and writing. These sessions were also recorded to view them later.”
In the spring of 2022, Andrews graduated magna cum laude. He says there is no way he could have envisioned this achievement in the years before completing this criminal justice degree program.
“I never considered myself a great student, but I became one thanks to Saint Leo University and the professors I had,” he says.
As a reward for his academic success, he was a member of the Lambda Theta chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma National Criminal Justice Honor Society.
When it comes to the Saint Leo University core values, community is a big one for him.
“Prior to attending Saint Leo, I didn’t understand how much value should be placed on community,” he says. “I can tell the faculty and staff really carry on that core value of community.”
This core value was also exemplified at the commencement ceremony, he adds.
“The commencement speaker spoke about how you don’t have to be Catholic to be educated and achieve higher learning. Other schools sometimes push certain faiths on their students, but the Saint Leo community is so welcoming of people of all faiths.”
Two other core values stand out to him as well.
“Respect is also important because we must respect one another. Integrity is imperative to maintain fairness and equal treatment of others.”
And what advice would he give to any prospective students about the benefits of being a Saint Leo student?
“If you are thinking about entering a certain career field and want to get a good foundation of that field, Saint Leo University would be the best place to go for higher education. They will provide you with valuable resources and meaningful connections. The faculty and staff will help you become successful, and they are relentless at student success.”
Since leaving the military seven years ago, Andrews has found his footing in a criminal justice career. For the past two years, he has worked as a government civilian emergency manager for the Naval Sea Systems Command.
“I handle access control, day-to-day management of facilities, and emergency management. I collaborate with local emergency management and government officials. I also handle training and development for continuity and operations of our organization.”
He says Saint Leo’s criminal justice degree program curriculum specifically prepared him for several duties of his current role, including counterintelligence briefings, how to handle overseas threats, and cybersecurity.
When asked about his future career goals, he says he would be honored to work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in its emergency response division.
“When a community is impacted by a natural or manmade disaster, I want to be able to help restore a quality of life to people who are impacted.”
In his free time, he is working toward this goal even more by lending a helping hand to those around him. He works on the American Red Cross disaster relief and recovery team and is certified with the Chesapeake Community Emergency Response Team. In addition, he volunteers his time at local shelters.
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Sebastian Andrews and are used with permission.