June 13, 2014 - This month, the Fort Valley State University Alumni Spotlight is featuring Wildcat alum Derrick D. Schofield. Schofield currently serves as commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). He oversees 14 prisons, a training academy, 45 probation and parole offices and headquarters. Additionally, he is responsible for 109,000 offenders, a staff of 6,800 employees, and a $950 million operating budget.
Schofield holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from FVSU. He first learned of Fort Valley State as a teenager in Middle Georgia in the 1970s.
“I remember (Fort Valley State’s) band coming to Macon for the Christmas parade, and the people talked about how great the school was back then. They (told) me to go to Fort Valley State University.”
He applied to campus and was accepted. Schofield served within the ROTC in the university’s Wildcat Battalion.
“I was really just thinking about getting away and partying, until I arrived on campus and realized that it was not just about meeting people and having a great time,” he said. “The professors forced us to learn, forced us to grow, and become a part of the university. Those were some of the best years of my life. My mom wasn’t that far away, but we didn’t have the communication devices that we have now, so I was kind of on my own. The friendships that we built there were strong. I’m still in contact with my first roommate from my freshman year. It was about building relationships and getting a solid education. So that’s one thing I tell people (meet), is that Fort Valley provided (the education) for all of my leadership positions, including the one I am in right now.”
At his FVSU graduation, Schofield was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
“My mom was there and my oldest brother to pin me,” Schofield said. “Lieut. Col. Fletcher was a great mentor to me and a lot of men there. He pushed us to do better.” The commissioner said he learned how to be a good person during his time in FVSU’s ROTC and how to make his parents proud.
Schofield stayed within the U.S. Army for eight years, where he rose to the rank of captain. After he left military service, he began working at the planning and zoning commission, where he had completed his internship as a student. In 1991, an advertisement in a newspaper drew him to a career in law enforcement.
“It paid $10,000 over what I was currently making, so that’s why I got into law enforcement,” Schofield said. “When I got there in 1991, I met the warden of a prison, and I thought to myself, if he could be a warden, then I could be the commissioner.”
After becoming commissioner, the FVSU alum has passed legislation within Tennessee to supervise adult felony offenders under a single agency. He has partnered to open the first female transition center within his state, and reorganized the correctional counselor structure to provide improved offender programming, case management and reentry into society.
Additionally, Schofield currently serves on the performance measures, racial disparity, substance abuse and mental health committees of the Association of State Correctional Administrators. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI), the Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction (TRICOR) and belongs to the advisory boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, Volunteer State College, Tennessee Voices for Victims and a Presidential Advisor to the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.
Schofield says he’s passionate about lifelong learning. The commissioner earned his master’s of public administration from Columbus State University. He also is a graduate of Georgia’s Law Enforcement Command College, and is currently pursuing his doctorate from Tennessee Temple University at the age of 53.
“Get your education learn as much as you can, whether its formal education, we have to ensure that we never stop learning, we never put ourselves in a position that we’re not ready for the next role,” Schofield said. “People (tell me) ‘Well, you’re 54, why are you pursuing another degree? My hope is that I find myself in a classroom, where I can work with our young kids and give them, from my prospective, that extra boost that they might need. (I want to) tell them, ‘You’re okay, and you’re going to be okay.’ But, we often times miss that connection. It has everything to do with education. If I prepare myself, then I can help others."
Christina D. Milton, writer/social media specialist
Fort Valley State University
Office of Marketing and Communications
(478) 825-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org