Upon graduating from high school, Antonio Passaro, Jr. joined the Virginia State Police and served as a Senior Trooper and Special Agent assigned to high tech crimes. Throughout the next decade and a half, he was lauded by many organizations, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the US Attorney’s Office Eastern District in recognition for “outstanding and dedicated public service to the nation and to his community.”

Concurrently, Antonio Passaro, Jr. earned Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees in Criminal Justice with emphasis on management and planning, as well as a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership with a cognate in Criminology and Criminal Justice. His topic was Operational Safety Planning. Recently, he completed NASA’s Federal Law Enforcement Officer Training Academy at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, at which point he was assigned to NASA Langley.

Antonio served as an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice initially as a way to productively spend his spare time; however, in 2013, he accepted a full-time professorship and the newly-created Department Lead of Criminal Justice position at Tidewater Community College (TCC) at their Norfolk, Virginia campus. Over the past seven years, Antonio Passaro, Jr. has been promoted from an Assistant professor to an Associate professor to finally a Full professor, all the while serving as department chair for the entire college. Beyond that, he has represented TCC at the state level by chairing or co-chairing the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) Criminal Justice Taskforce and Curriculum Committees.

In addition to his full-time job, Antonio has also acted on several television series on the Investigative Discovery Channel. These include Wicked Attractions and Ice Cold Killers. He has also acted in a feature film called A Moment of Clarity.

Why did you decide to choose the career path you did?

Law enforcement was a calling. Having a well-established educational background behind me, I was offered a professorship in that discipline. I took it because I thought I could do some good by influencing the minds of future law enforcement officers in a positive, informative, and engaging way.

What do you love most about the industry you are in?

It’s the fact that I’m helping people. As a professor, I’m in the business of training and educating. For me, it’s a way of changing the future of the women and men going into law enforcement.

What keeps you motivated?

Knowing that I’m making a difference in young lives motivates me. Knowing where these young women and men are likely to end up and what challenges they’ll probably face, and the fact that I’ve been there and done that already, and to be able to turn around and relay to them the benefits of my wisdom—that’s just priceless.

How do you motivate others?

I’m a self-motivator and I explain that to my students. I tell them how self-motivated I am and hope that instills in them the same trait. Hopefully, they’ll follow suit. In that respect, it’s all about perception; it’s all about the example that I demonstrate as a role model to my students. I try to make the classroom a really fun environment to be in so that the students want to come back to class. My classes are always full, and I think that’s because of the way I engage meaningfully with the students.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I think my inspiration partly comes from the sense of accomplishment, of realizing my goals, and of discovering  what my limits are to push through them as an athlete. I was on the wrestling team in high school, as well as the basketball team. I run. I can still run a six minute mile. I work out a lot. I’m very athletically inclined, and I think that’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. All the sports and activities that I just listed require a great deal of discipline. It’s always been a presence in my life.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

My dad was a great role model. He’s no longer with us, unfortunately. You know how a lot of people look up to celebrities? Well, my dad was the only celebrity that a boy needed. He was the hardest working guy that I’ve ever known. He would give the shirt off his back to somebody in need. He was the most giving, loving, and caring person that I’ve ever met. That’s who I would always look up to. Even as a fully-grown adult and a state trooper walking into my parents’ house decked out in full uniform with a badge on, when I saw my dad, he had my utmost respect.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance?

It’s about prioritization. I prioritize what I view as important. I have a schedule. I have things that I do in my professional life and I have things I do in my personal life, and somehow I make it all work. In the past, I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have time to work out.” What? No, you just make time. That’s what I do. I have a schedule and I make time to get things done. For example, as soon as I’m done with this interview, I have things to do. The day has not ended yet. By the end of the day—and that’s every day—I’ll look back and say to myself, “Look at all the things I accomplished today.”

What suggestions do you have for someone starting in your industry?

Get as much education as you can. We’re in a changing world. Education is more imperative than it has ever been before for law enforcement officials. That’s why I chose the career path that I did; training and educating young people to be the best officers of the law that they can be. We have to make adjustments in all levels of law enforcement, in my opinion, and we need better community engagement. So, I tell these students on their way to careers in law enforcement, “Hey, go to school. Educate yourself. Take all the courses you can. But really learn from them.” They’re going to go on to police academies, to academia, they’re going to get their degrees—and that’s important, too—but the material, advice, and wisdom has to sink in for it to be truly useful in their careers.

What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?

I think the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was earn a Ph.D. That was a ton of work. The hours that I spent on that degree, it’s unbelievable. I still feel like I need to go to class.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

Treat other people with kindness. It’s the most fundamental thing you can do. Speaking as a law enforcement officer, I can tell you that 9 times out of 10, it will serve to de-escalate a bad situation. Also, if you treat people with kindness, they can’t be mean to you.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?

Once again, I would say be kind to people. It’s a trait I feel that a lot of people are lacking. Also, it’s really important to take the time to listen to others and to understand someone else’s walk of life. If more people would take the time to listen and to be kind and respectful to others, society will be a better place.

What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?

A quote comes to mind. “It always seems impossible until it is done.” I think Nelson Mandela said that.

Outside of work, what defines you as a person?

I’m a hard worker, I’m a self-motivator, and I’m driven. These are my defining characteristics.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In no particular order, I would like to see myself as either a sheriff, a police chief, or a college president.

Explain the proudest day of your professional life.

Earning my Ph.D. It was a lot of work, but it made the payoff all the sweeter at the end.