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College Lessons Prepare Alumna for Law Enforcement Career

Mon Apr 19, 2021

As a member of the inaugural women’s soccer team at Cal State San Marcos in 2006, Marika Patterson learned firsthand the importance of time management, working hard at one’s craft and showing up every day ready to give your best.

As a law enforcement officer in Orange County, she takes those same lessons learned on the pitch and on campus to forge a career in serving her community.

“A lot of what college imparts on to you is perseverance,” said Patterson, who graduated from CSUSM with a bachelor’s in communication in 2010. “Juggling academics, athletics, work and a social life, that grit helps shape how you handle life’s adult challenges.”

Now residing in the Long Beach area, Patterson works as a Sheriff Special Officer with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. She is also currently enrolled at Arizona State University in the emergency management master’s program.

Patterson has known since a young age that she wanted to serve the public as a first responder. She credits that passion in part to what she describes as a burning desire to be the person others seek out in an emergency.

Patterson has adjusted many things in her professional life over the past year due to COVID-19. But one thing it hasn’t altered is her positive outlook.

“The pandemic has affected all of us in our personal lives and at work,” Patterson said. “There have been many challenges that we have faced in law enforcement during the pandemic. There were a lot of schedule changes, mandatory overtime and policy changes that had to reflect the pandemic guidelines.

“I have been humbled and personally impacted by the citizens of Orange County and their continued support of law enforcement. The ‘thank yous’ go a long way when faced with such challenging times.”

The arrival of the pandemic – as well as how we’ve worked to bounce back – has reminded Patterson of the events of 9/11 and its aftermath.

A high school senior during 9/11, she remembers feeling inspired by how the country came together during a time of great need.

“Many of my classmates went to war that year and the years that followed, and of course it goes without saying that several did not come home,” Patterson said. “In the early weeks of COVID we were all experiencing this despair together as Americans. That is how 9/11 felt, that we were all in the same pain together.”

That sense of community is nothing new to Patterson. Her time on the soccer team at CSUSM taught her how sacrificing one’s own accolades for the betterment of the team meant success could be valued higher than any individual accomplishment.

 “I competed in the first season, which I am immensely proud of,” Patterson said. “I have kept up with the program since and have been enormously proud of the women that continued our tradition of hard work and competition. We were pioneers of the program in 2006. Today the program has really shined.”

In addition to her time spent on the Cougars soccer team, Patterson said professor of communication Katherine Brown and lecturer Catherine Armas-Matsumoto were her greatest influences on campus because of their attentiveness and approachability. Brown is now the communication department chair and Armas-Matsumoto is the communication department internship coordinator.

Her time at CSUSM clearly shaped Patterson into the person she is today.

“College is a great place to challenge yourself and collect life skills that will help your future self,” she said.