Officer Profile: Joel Serna

One of the newest additions to the Campus Safety team is Officer Joel Serna. Officer Serna was raised in Mexico, moved to Los Angeles, and eventually made his way to Holland as a student at Hope College. Though language barriers inhibited his completion of a Hope degree, Officer Serna completed the Police Academy in 1991 at GRCC and later graduated from GVSU in 1998 with his bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science. He made his way back to Hope College in 2018 as a Campus Safety employee. Officer Serna brings 27 years of experience with the Holland Police Department, along with a passion for working alongside the Hope community, to his role as a Campus Safety Officer.

Where are you from?

I currently live in Zeeland but I was born and raised in Mexico until I was 15. My family and I moved to Los Angeles where I learned to speak English. The hardest part about leaving Mexico was leaving my friends. We loved to play and used to spend the entire afternoon playing football and baseball until it was dark outside. While in L.A. my father visited Michigan with a friend and fell in love with Holland and the community so we moved here and I have stayed in the area since then.

Do you have a family?

I am married and collectively we have 5 kids. Most of them are out of high school except our youngest son, Eli, who is in 3rd grade. I am passionate about my family and love to have a strong relationship as a family.

When was the first time that you discovered you wanted a career as an officer?

I graduated from Grand Valley with a Behavioral Science degree.  I started working with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals where someone approached me about working with law enforcement. I love to work with people and help others so it seemed to be a good fit.

After working for the Holland Police Department for 27 years, what led you to work at Hope College as a Campus Safety Officer?

I retired from the Holland Police Department over the summer but knew that I wanted to continue working. The Hope College campus is beautiful and has a great atmosphere. The interaction with the students, staff, and community was very appealing. The community policing philosophy that Campus Safety is embracing means I don’t just drive around but there is a social aspect to our job. I like to keep the campus orderly and the students safe but also like to chit chat, socialize, and relate to students.

What is the best part of being a Campus Safety Officer?

The people that I work with, the Campus Safety team, is great. As well as meeting the students. Each student comes from different backgrounds and brings diversity to campus. Getting to know the students gives me even more motivation to care for the community.

What are your hobbies?

I love when the weather gets cold and you can get cozy and read. I like to listen to music and work out. I usually listen to 80’s rock, hard rock, Spanish music, and a little Shawn Mendez. I love spending time with my family.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I may look tough but I am actually a very sensitive guy. I’m kind of a softie. I like to listen and be sociable. I am very empathetic. I think everyone in the human race should have empathy and hospitality. It is all about caring for others.

What is one misconception about your job as a Campus Safety Officer?

No one should ever fear campus safety or be scared to call with any questions. We are there to assist with an open mind and will do our best to assist the students and faculty by making it easy to alleviate the situation. We want to get to know students because knowing each other is helping each other create a more positive environment.

This is the first in a series of personal profiles about the officers who serve Hope College. Together with all members of the campus community,  the Campus Safety Department strives to provide a safe and secure environment for all to learn, live and work.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The goal of this month is to bring attention to relationship abuse. This gives us the opportunity to connect victims to advocates, educate people on the reality of the problem, and to empower those who have survived. Nationwide, more than half of the students who report having experienced domestic violence say that it occurred while in college. Being aware of the signs of domestic abuse and the resources available is the best way to keep you and the people you love in safe and healthy relationships.

Unfortunately, domestic violence is not uncommon. One in four women and one in seven men will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes. The most common assumption about domestic violence is that an abusive relationship consists only of an uncontrollable man with a raging temper. Domestic violence and emotional abuse affect every age, sex, race, and culture. Abusive behaviors are actions one person takes in a relationship to control the other person physically and emotionally.

Being able to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships can be complicated at times. No two relationships are the same. More than half of all college students say it is difficult to identify dating abuse. Although there are many different red flags, these are common warning signs of dating abuse:

  • Checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission
  • Isolation from family or friends
  • Extreme possessiveness, jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Using intimidation to instill fear
  • Physically inflicting pain or harm in any way
  • Telling someone what they can and cannot do, say or wear
  • Blames you for their actions (“You made me do this,” or “You make me act this way,” etc.).
  • CrazyMaking (their words and actions make you feel like you’re going crazy)
  • Repeatedly pressuring or coercing someone to have sex

According to the Domestic Violence Hotline, 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they are victims of dating abuse, and 58% say they don’t know how they would help someone else if that person were a victim.

The first step is to start the conversation. Tell them what you have noticed that concerns you and ask them if they recognize those same behaviors. Connect them to resources and share healthy relationship characteristics.

Second, be supportive of those that are in an abusive relationship. Often times those in a relationship do not recognize the abuse. Do not be judgmental of persons in an abusive relationship. Instead, be supportive and keep your door for communication open.

Third, be aware of and share the resources that are available to those at risk. Outside help may not feel like the best choice, but these situations are serious, so it is important to call professionals for support.

Abuse is never the fault of the victim.  If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or relationship abuse, help is available. You can file a report by calling Campus Safety at 616-395-7770, or you can reach out to one of our confidential campus resources:  

Counseling Center (CAPS): DeWitt Center – 2nd floor, 616-395-7945    

Campus Ministries: Keppel House, 616-395-7145  

Confidential Advocate: Christian Gibson, DeWitt Center – 1st floor, 616-395-7800  

Campus Safety Hosts a Second Torch Run for Special Olympics

For the second year in a row, the Campus Safety Department organized and hosted a Torch Run at Hope. Held on Wednesday, Sept. 12, the event not only raised money for Special Olympics, it also brought Hope students, local law enforcement, and Special Olympians together to run a 2.6-mile trek through campus, starting and ending at DeVos Fieldhouse. The Law Enforcement Torch Run is a national fundraising effort that was brought to Hope’s campus in 2017 by Campus Safety officers Jeff VanderKooy and Scott Evans.

Read more in this Holland Sentinel story about how VanderKooy and Evans got more than 200 people to take part in this year’s Torch Run.

Hope Alerts Aid in Campus Safety

Recently you may have received text messages on your phone regarding Holland weather advisories and timely safety precautions for our campus. You also may be wondering what these messages are, where they come from and how to take action.

Hope College Campus Safety sends emergency notification texts, including notice of weather-related closures, via the HOPE ALERT system. These messages begin with the words, “HOPE ALERT,” followed by timely information that advises students, faculty and staff with instruction for further action to stay safe.

Here is some important information that Campus Safety would like you to know about Hope Alerts:

Why pay attention to a HOPE ALERT?

Campus Safety officers and dispatchers are vigilant about various happenings on campus as well as in Holland, especially in the area surrounding campus. If they hear of an event that is concerning and poses a potential threat to people at Hope, a Hope Alert is sent out. The most effective way to stay out of harm’s way is to follow the safety precautions recommended in the HOPE ALERT.

I didn’t receive a HOPE ALERT? What do I do?

Making sure that you are signed up to receive emergency text alerts is the first step to ensuring that you are keeping yourself safe. To sign up for the system or verify that your information is current:

  • Log in to plus.hope.edu with your User ID and PIN.
  • Enter Secure Area > Personal Information > Update Emergency Contacts
  • If your name is not listed, add a New Contact. Enter your name and cell phone number.
  • To receive emergency text messages, the relationship must be set to Self and your name must be listed in the first (1) order spot.
  • Click Submit Changes.

Take responsibility for your own safety by double-checking that the correct contact information is in the system.

What happens after I receive a HOPE ALERT?

All relevant updates during an emergency are issued via the HOPE ALERT system, the Hope Alert page, inHope and the @HopeCollege Twitter account. Calling Campus Safety during an emergency should occur ONLY if you have critical information to report about the situation. Lines should stay open for officers to resolve the situation with those needing to report information about the emergency.