UMO Student Pursues Dreams with Determination

RTP – For University of Mount Olive (UMO) student Emily Dodson, life has been full of ups and downs. Through unexpected events and obstacles, she has learned to persevere and continue to achieve her dreams.

When Dodson, a native of Mebane, graduated from high school, she decided to pursue an education at a local community college. While she had always been interested in criminal justice and law enforcement, her family was hesitant to see her go into that line of work. Instead, she tried other fields, but she struggled to find success. This led to Dodson working in a variety of jobs. She was a bus driver, a special education teaching assistant, and a long distance truck driver.

Ten years ago, her life changed completely – she became a mother. Dodson started to think about how she would financially raise her daughter as a single mom. In order to create the best opportunities for her daughter and herself, she decided to go back to school and get her associate’s degree.

“I decided I would do what I had always wanted to do, and I enrolled in criminal justice,’ she said.

After completing her associate’s degree in 2013, Dodson enrolled into Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET). Again, she realized that she was embarking on a journey that would take perseverance and determination. She had a number of variables working against her – being overweight, being older than the average trainee, and being a single mom.

“The odds were against me,” she said. However, Dodson was determined. “If there is something that I want I will work hard to get whatever it is,” she added.

In the summer of 2014, Dodson completed the training and passed the exam to become a certified police officer for the state of North Carolina. Since that time, she has worked in law enforcement and currently works for ODS Company Police in Burlington. Her time is split between two locations – a hospital emergency room and a clinic for people with psychiatric needs. She was recently promoted to the position of Sergeant.

“I am responsible for the safety of the patients as well as the staff and the public,” she said.

In 2015 Dodson was presented with another opportunity to set her career goals in motion.  Representatives from the University of Mount Olive visited her place of employment and talked to the officers about the University’s baccalaureate programs. Dodson saw this as a perfect opportunity.

“I took that as a sign that it was time for me to finish what I started,” she said.

With the support of her family, Dodson enrolled at the UMO RTP location in the spring of 2016. At UMO, Dodson has been continuously impressed with the faculty and staff. “UMO has been such a positive experience for me,” she said.

For Dodson, UMO’s faith based values were truly important. In early 2017, she faced some health issues that required hospitalization. Throughout that time, she felt totally supported by the UMO community. “I was touched and completely moved with the understanding and help that I was given by the people at UMO,” she said. With their understanding, she was able to keep up and maintain her GPA.

Dodson, now 41, is set to graduate on December 16, with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and criminology. She hopes to use her degree to continue growing in her career. “I am hoping to find a career that fulfills my desire to help people, but can also provide a better financial situation for me and my daughter,” she said.

Dodson’s daughter, Lakyn, is her inspiration. “I want to be an example for her. This will be the second degree that my daughter will see me get, and it inspires her to work hard in school and have aspirations for college,” she said.

According to Dodson, her journey with criminal justice has been fascinating and exciting, and her experience at UMO has been a vital part of it. Despite obstacles, she has been determined to persevere.

“If you want something, there is nothing that can stop you except yourself. Go for it,” she said.

The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has locations in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, Jacksonville, and in Smithfield at Johnston Community College.  For more information, visit