When Joanna Shaul first moved into her dorm on Ohio State’s campus in 2000, she didn’t want to stay. In fact, that day she begged her father to take her home, thinking the university would not be a good fit for her.
“You call me on Friday and if you still feel that way, I will come back and get you,” her father said.
Shaul did call. Thirty days later to check in.
Now when she dials her father’s number, the 34-year-old does so with a freshly minted title – Lt. Shaul.
Shaul was promoted to lieutenant Nov. 27, after seven years with University Police. The promotion marked another peak for Shaul, whose journey to this point is colored in scarlet and gray.
After a challenging freshman move to Lincoln Tower, Shaul continued through the criminology program at Ohio State, working as a Student Service Safety officer and student dispatcher before ultimately graduating in 2004.
“It all began at a student involvement fair,” Shaul said. “Law enforcement was something I was interested in and I was involved at my community at home. I was looking for a way to find that here in Columbus.”
Despite being born into a family of educators, Shaul knew when she was just a middle-schooler that she wanted a career in law enforcement. From the beginning, Shaul found uniformed street patrol of particular interest, but the teaching roots she knew so well growing up still found a place in her work as an officer.
The combined passion for education and enforcement made for a “good blend,” Shaul said.
“Even though we’re police officers, we’re absolutely part of the educational mission at the university. Our students are learning how to become citizens and what that means, what the responsibilities are, and what consequences are.”
Shaul had some time away from Ohio State. She earned a law degree from Capital University in 2014 and then worked at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department as a communications technician. She transferred to Grandview Heights where she served as a police officer before coming back to her “home.”
Shaul said the career progression was inevitable because of her Buckeye spirit.
After making the lateral move, Shaul has been visible in the Rape Aggression Defense program on campus, which works to empower women through the learning of self-defense tactics.
She also is one of three K-9 handlers on campus, teaming up with her German Shepherd partner, Rita.
The campus community, however, has always been her focus and reward.
“The students are why we’re here. Who I am today has everything to do with my time at Ohio State,” Shaul said. “It’s important to me that the police division continues to create a campus where people continues to have those experiences. To learn who they are. To have a safe place to challenge themselves and grow.”
Shaul’s familiarity with campus and its growth and development have been fundamental to her evolution as an Ohio State police officer.
Deputy Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt watched Shaul’s progression from officer to lieutenant – a journey which has come full circle in Columbus.
“To see her move up in the ranks, I was happy for her,” Spears-McNatt said. “Every day that she puts on that uniform, she comes here to make a difference and she really enjoys what she does.”
As Shaul continues her career, she said she envisions a future much like her present: protecting and serving the university community, while doing it all through the “best possible police division.”