From a sergeant to a student: Payne’s graduation dream comes true

December 2020

When Cheryl Ann Payne first stepped onto Lynn University's campus in summer 2014, neither Lynn nor Payne knew what was in store for the budding relationship. Payne had scheduled interviews with two other institutions, but after her Lynn interview, she found it unnecessary to look further. She described her experience as love at first sight.


"When I walk into a situation, it often gives me a feeling," Payne recalled fondly. "The former chief of Campus Safety, Assistant Chief Brian Siliquini and Lieutenant Amanda Peterson helped me instantly recognize Lynn as a nurturing environment. I wanted to be here."

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Payne grew up with two loving parents, four brothers and a sister. Payne's parents, John and Rose Payne, fostered an appreciation for life and a commitment to helping others in their children. And growing up with an older sister who had cerebral palsy, Payne said, "I learned the value of giving back at a young age. My siblings and I learned that life is a gift, and we should do all that we can to help others."

Her family life inspired her to pursue a career in public service. Her allegiance to helping others led her to serve honorably as a Detroit police officer for nearly a decade. After a successful law enforcement career, Payne continued serving others as a campus safety sergeant at a Michigan college. Later, she became a credentialed security contractor and a public safety manager at Gateway Regional Medical Center in Illinois.

For Christmas 2012, Payne visited friends in South Florida, and that's when she fell in love with the state's tropical climate. The magnificent palm trees and beautiful weather swayed her, and she began to think she would enjoy living the rest of her life here.

The culture at Lynn inspired me: the diversity, the inclusiveness, and the nurturing spirit from the top down. Everyone is about helping others reach their full potential.
Campus Safety Officer Cheryl Ann Payne

A perfect match

The job search brought her to Lynn, and Payne's first experience felt like the culmination of a lifetime of deep-rooted beliefs and decades of experience. "It was like everything that I was raised believing and have done in my life compliment the ideologies that Lynn embodies," she said. "John and Rose Payne helped all their children want to leave a legacy of giving and continue to excel. When you love what you do for a living and who you are working for, it doesn’t feel like work."

Payne quickly became one of Lynn's most hardworking employees, as anyone who has ever had the pleasure of engaging with her has witnessed, and she has earned multiple Employee of the Month nominations to prove it.

Campus safety officer walks with a student on campus

Employee to student

While Payne was persistently proving herself to be an indomitable force in her job and earning great confidence in those around her, a supervisor suggested that she consider pursuing an undergraduate degree. It reminded her of how her parents encouraged all of their children to pursue higher education.

As an adult learner, she felt somewhat reluctant. She was happy with her role at the university and enjoying her time in Florida. But earning her college degree felt more important than any hesitation. Four years later, Payne decided she was up for the challenge.

"The culture at Lynn inspired me: the diversity, the inclusiveness, and the nurturing spirit from the top down," she said. "Everyone is about helping others reach their full potential. One day it hit me: I was working with an employer that was encouraging me to go back to school. So, 'Let's go for it!' I said to myself."

Payne enrolled in Lynn's undergraduate criminal justice program in January 2019. She recalled, "It was a little intimidating at first, to be engaging with students much younger than I, but I had taken online classes before, so I liked that mode of delivery of education. I knew that if I applied myself, I would do well."

She found that Lynn's program represents what's happening on the streets and in communities all across the country. "I think that Lynn is leading in timely instruction; even after these recent incidents, they changed the coursework to match. They do a great job representing what is happening in the world."

Payne graduates this December with a 3.8 GPA. Upon graduating, she plans to pursue her master's degree at Lynn, too.

"It’s never too late to achieve your dream. If you want to do something, go for it," she said with a smile. "I couldn't have done it without the amazing scholarships Lynn offers. And continuing my education is the icing on the cake of a 35-year career!"

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