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  • Vive Griffith

Meet Corey Saffold, Odyssey Graduate and Change Agent

This profile originally appeared on our site in 2018.

Corey Saffold

Around the state of Wisconsin, people travel to hear Corey Saffold speak. The Madison police officer was tapped by the Wisconsin Humanities Council to offer a series of lectures about his work. In “The Paradox of Being a Black Police Officer in Today’s Society,” he reflects on the contention between law enforcement and the African American community in the wake of killings of unarmed black men both locally and nationally.

Corey says he could have never found his way to this role if not for the year he spent in a Clemente-inspired classroom.

“This voice to speak, to be bold and confident in the issues that are so near to me, is a voice I found in the Odyssey Project,” he said.
Corey Saffold with a classmate (L) and Dr. Auerbach (R)

Corey graduated from the Odyssey Project at the University of Wisconsin in 2006, spending two semesters immersed in the humanities. Before enrolling, he’d never taken a college class and he considered himself a passive person. He says that he felt embarrassed admitting that he needed help to go back to school. That changed when he met Dr. Emily Auerbach, Odyssey founder and director.

“I was so impressed by her passion for educating people,” he said, “and believing that education can be a turning point in someone’s life.”

For Corey, it clearly was. He says that almost immediately, a switch flipped. He took his time developing his writing and public speaking skills, never missing a class. By the time the year was over, he’d published an op-ed in the Wisconsin State Journal titled “Education Must Trump Prison Time,” a piece that opened with a quote from Frederick Douglass.

Corey was on his way to a career in law enforcement and activism. He joined the police department in 2009, completed his associate’s degree, and is now earning his bachelor’s at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. But it’s his work toward social justice, whether as a friendly face in uniform at a high school or as a leader on equity issues in his department, where he is most engaged. He understands the power of using his voice on behalf of the greater good.

“The program sends us out to be change agents, and that is exactly what I do every day at work, by providing dignity to someone, respect to someone, speaking out against injustice,” he said. “All of that started with the Odyssey Project.”

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