Geosciences graduate named Sacramento’s first female police chief

Geosciences graduate named Sacramento’s first female police chief

MSU Office of Public Affairs

News Bureau (662) 325-3442

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

January 4, 2022

     STARKVILLE, Miss.— A 2016 geosciences graduate now is the first female police chief in Sacramento, CA.

     Katherine Marie Lester earned her Master of Science in Geosciences degree with an emphasis in Teachers in Geosciences through the Department of Geosciences’ online program while working as an active police officer in California. She is a 27-year veteran with the Sacramento Police Department and its 46th police chief.

     Lester earned her undergraduate degree in government from California State University Sacramento in 2000, a degree she said was “very versatile in helping me achieve my career goals in the public sector.”

     When she decided to pursue a master’s degree, Lester said she was a single mom working “shift work,” and traditional programs were a challenge.

     “I began researching programs and found a strong, well-regarded option with MSU,” Lester said. “The program was unique in that it was a traditional ‘hard science’ degree but one that I could do mostly as a distance learning program. I loved that there was also a field methods requirement that allowed me to get hands on experience in the real world. I did my research on San Salvador Island with Dr. John Rodgers, who now heads the Department of Geosciences. Because of MSU, I was able to combine my personal interest in science with a practical application as a public safety professional."

     “I have always been interested in sciences and I saw the benefits of having a better understanding of the physical world, especially natural hazards. In California, we have been inundated with fires, floods and mudslides,” Lester said.

     “For me, education is a life-long pursuit,” she said. “This program was a challenge, especially because I didn’t have an undergraduate degree in geosciences. But the hard work and the results were worth it. I am a better critical thinker, I understand research and I bring something very different to the field of public safety with this degree. I’m currently working on a grant with MSU Professor Dr. Farshid Vahedifard and other scientists from around the country to improve the resiliency of vulnerable communities to cascading natural disasters. My education at Mississippi State has helped me make a difference in my own community!”

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