Ethan Brown, Correspondent
Chief Wanda Dunham came to the JSU bookstore on September 25 to sign copies of her new book, “Becoming Chief: Life Lessons Learned on The Road Less Traveled.”
In her book Dunham wrote about the lessons she’s learned in her life. Starting from her first-ever job at Kmart, and to the lessons she’s learned during her career in law enforcement and transportation in the 21st century. The book is an extraordinarily deep dive into the personal and professional life of the former Chief of Police.
A JSU alumnus of 1984, Wanda Dunham has truly given back to her community, and her alma mater. She has dedicated over 30 years to the community, 14 of those as the Chief of Police Department and Emergency Management in Atlanta. Dunham has the distinction of being the first African American and female to hold the position of Chief. Being the first to set this precedent in the law enforcement community is one of the many things that sets Dunham apart.
Looking back on her college days, Dunham admits that Jacksonville wasn’t her first choice. When speaking to her at her book signing, she revealed that she had gone to Berry College in Rome, Georgia first. Ultimately, she left because it wasn’t the best fit for her. Feeling defeated after leaving school she went back to her job at Kmart. It wasn’t until a friend from church told her she just had to check out Jacksonville that she’d considered JSU. At the time she didn’t know anything about Jacksonville.
Remembering her first visit to the town and campus Dunham –which she also talks about in her book– Dunham remembers feeling at home, “I said to myself ‘this was where I need to be’ and I never looked back!”
“Since that time, having the opportunity to be Police Chief, I’ve hired several JSU alumni from the Criminal Justice Department,” Dunham said.
Since retirement Chief Dunham has launched “Wanda Dunham Consulting,”where she helps people reach their personal and professional leadership goals. The former Chief says it’s important to realize that everything in your life teaches you a lesson. Along with helping individuals, she is also helping to redefine what policing means in the 21st century. She still has a hand in aiding with training in police departments.
When asked Dunham what advice she would give to young women of color feeling defeated in what they are trying to do.
“You have to find your own way; nobody is going to open the doors for you. They aren’t going to make it easy. You have to work hard and stay committed to it,” Dunham said. “You just have to work hard! Don’t expect a handout. I didn’t see myself as a woman, or a woman of color. I just worked like I was any other worker trying to be the best at their craft.”