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.