Chief of Police combines leadership and passion to positively impact his country and community

Adam Salyards always wanted to serve his country and community. The two-time Union alumnus with a B.S. in Criminal Justice Management (’20) and an M.S. in Organizational Leadership (’21) knew from an early age that he had the heart of a servant leader.

“I’m one of seven children from a small town in Pennsylvania with 200 residents. When I was only 14 I started as a volunteer firefighter, and at 16 became a certified EMT. My uncle was a police officer and I was influenced by his stories about the job. After 9/11, I wanted to do more for my country. I thought a career in law enforcement would offer the opportunity to make a difference, so the following month I joined the police academy,” Salyards said.

Salyard started as a patrol officer, then served as a community relations officer, and was promoted to sergeant with the State College Police Department. In 2021 he accepted the Chief of Police position with the Spring Township Police Department.

“During my 26 years in the emergency response profession, I realized I could solve problems, coach and mentor, and see the big picture. I thought a college degree would improve my skills and help me move up the ranks,” Salyards said.

He searched for a university that welcomed real-world experience and had a good reputation among law enforcement professionals.

“I was impressed that Union is a member of the National Fraternal Order of Police University (NFOPU) consortium of colleges and universities.”

He found that Union valued his experience and input.

“My professors were excellent. They understood the complexities involved in police work. In addition, they encouraged me to think and analyze best practices for continuous improvement and strategic transformational leadership,” Salyards said. “I appreciate Union working with me to complete my last class several weeks early and have my degree conferred in weeks rather than months. I tell any police officer that I meet whom I know is looking to further their education to consider Union.”

Salyards believes a college degree adds to his profession.

“I believe a college degree is important.  Education broadens our outlook and gives a world view on how we integrate and work together. Union’s curriculum discusses social justice, diversity, and equity – very important and relevant topics. Social justice means everyone is treated the same way, regardless of race, and that applies to our work and how we treat one another. I strive to be a leader who is able to step back and look at the overall picture. I know we all have room to grow when it comes to diversity and equity. Police can lead reforms. We need to ask what our communities want. They should give us input on how they want to be policed. I believe it is important to talk with the community about how policing can be most successful in our jurisdictions,” Salyards said.

Chief Salyards encourages the public to get to know their officers.

“I encourage the community to understand we are men and women who laugh, cry, and care. We have chosen to put our lives on the line. We face many challenges. When we are painted with the same brush, it affects all of us. I encourage the public to engage with the police and work together to find solutions to complex challenges. Let’s celebrate our differences and use them to further collaboration.”


Learn how a Criminal Justice Management degree can help move you up the ranks.