Gerard Cleveland

BA '89 English

Receiving a million dollar gift

Gerard Cleveland.I have never met a more enthusiastic alumnus than Gerard Cleveland. A self-described working-class Irish-Italian kid who thought the possibility of ever going to university was a myth. He became a cop but always wanted more. At 31, and with some trepidation, he enrolled at Waterloo, choosing to study English through correspondence.  He says that this experience gave him a million-dollar gift, one he uses every day in his work as an educator, a lawyer and university lecturer. 

Gerard is a police education specialist and the President of the Police Society for Problem Based Learning (PSPBL). He is the co-author, with Greg Saville, of the National Police Training Officer (PTO) model and the co-author of the National PBL manual for police trainers.

The Arts Alumni Office had the pleasure of chatting with Gerard on the phone at his home in Australia, where he has been living for ten years.

Can you tell us what it was like earning your degree through distance education?

Correspondence was the best academic thing that I’ve ever done. I attended another university in Ontario and went to classes on campus but it just wasn’t working with my schedule and my style of learning. I didn’t fit the education model of an organized and linear thinker. Through distance education, Waterloo offered an innovative approach to learning; it was fantastic. I raced through the program, was able to focus and work at my own pace. For a self motivated learner this was the ideal learning opportunity. 

I recommend distance education to mothers and people who have busy lives working full-time. I teach at law school and I ask students why they are in class and many of them reply “Because it’s the next step,” with no forethought as to where it will lead them. Whereas with mature students, there is a purpose, a will and a drive. 

What is problem based learning and how does it work?

Problem based learning is ‘real life’ learning. For example, I was a cop studying English. In order to make poetry and Shakespeare real to me, I had to think of it as a problem. Shakespeare involved tragedy; as a cop I dealt with domestic violence on a regular basis. I would think to myself, “Wow, this is Romeo and Juliet.” I took real life and made it applicable across the ages – using what I learned at Waterloo and applying it to everyday life. 

Waterloo can take a deep bow. It was the distance education at University of Waterloo that inspired me to co-create the national program in the USA with the web element. In the PTO program, the regular duties of policing are incorporated, but they are put into the context of specific neighbourhood problems. Recruits are challenged to think creatively, and use community resources, to deal with disorder and crime.

Can you tell us about the Loka Solution?

The roadway to success is through education. However, most people still see the “working world” in corporate terms, yet we believe solutions to community problems need to be more universal. Loka is a community approach that creates local ‘webs’ of social, business and academic interests. It involves teaching people how to share space effectively, how to interact with each other in an emotional intelligence manner, and it supports the creative redesign of living and work spaces.

It will be an interesting challenge, but there is a motivated team of us from across the world who are going to give it a go!

What do you know for sure?

I know one thing for sure! I know that without education we are lost in whatever ebbs and flows of the moment happen to be driving us. 

Education is the ultimate ‘sail’: once we raise it, we choose our own destinations rather than suffer the vicissitudes of fate or chance. I know Waterloo gave me a terrific opportunity and thanks to them, I’ve been able to sail to some fairly amazing places. Thanks to Waterloo for getting me started.

University of Waterloo

Profiles by type