Argosy University Blog

Argosy University Alum Scott Tillema Negotiates His Way to Success


Scott Tillema’s career has been a master class in human behavior.

Even before earning his B.A. in Behavioral Science and Law from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002, Tillema had completed an internship with the Madison police department and was on a career fast track.

“I’ve always been intrigued by what makes people tick, why they do what they do, and how different people respond in various situations,” says Tillema. “I think that curiosity—and the opportunity to serve others in the process—is what led to my interest in law enforcement.”

Just months after graduating, he landed a position with the Schaumburg (Illinois) Police Department and served as a patrol officer for nearly five years before deciding to take his career to the next level. He wanted to be a hostage negotiator, and he knew he’d need more education and training to get promoted.

“I thought about going back to school for two years before I actually did it,” recalls Tillema, who graduated from Argosy University, Sarasota in 2009 with his Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology. “I’d heard great things about Argosy, but the campus near my home in Illinois didn’t offer the masters program I wanted. After I met with an advisor, I realized I had options—including a blended course of study that combined online courses, classes at my local Argosy campus, and periodic visits to Argosy’s campus in Sarasota. For a single guy who was tired of Midwest winters, the idea of flying down to Florida for classes twice a semester was very appealing.”

Tillema says Argosy’s flexibility and blended class options were a key to his success.

“For someone who was working a job with unpredictable, inconsistent hours, flexibility was essential,” says Tillema. “That’s where the online classes came in. As much I prefer going to class and experiencing the face-to-face interaction with a professor and classmates, online classes made it possible for me to maintain my momentum as I worked toward my degree.”

As it turned out, just being enrolled in the Argosy master’s program provided Tillema the opportunity to achieve the career he wanted. Seven months into his studies, he was promoted to hostage negotiator, working with a regional SWAT team and the Schaumburg police department to diffuse hostage situations, suicide standoffs, and armed barricades. Tillema took classes year round and completed his degree within three years, all while working a demanding, high stress job.

“There was great synchronicity to the process,” Tillema explains. “There would be times when I’d study criminal profiling, for example, and realize I was applying that knowledge in real life just days later. The quality of instructors at Argosy was consistently strong. I really felt the people who taught me were invested in their students and really wanted to see us succeed.”

That connection with his instructors soon paid off in another way. Thanks in part to their recommendations; Tillema was invited to be an Adjunct Instructor at Argosy shortly after graduating. He taught criminal justice and psychology courses at Argosy’s Schaumburg campus for the next four years.

In 2014, Tillema was promoted to Sergeant, and now serves in Schaumburg’s Special Operations Division, focusing on prostitution, drugs, and street crimes. He’s currently developing a crisis communications and hostage negotiations class that he hopes to offer to other police agencies.

Last November, he was invited to speak at TEDxNaperville, billed as “a free-thinking conference that gathers the Chicago areas brightest minds together for a day-long exploration of ideas worth spreading.” Tillema’s topic: “The Secrets of Hostage Negotiators”.

“Talking one-on-one to a guy with a gun to his head is easier for me than speaking to audience of 750 people,” Tillema says. “I was pretty nervous, yet I was also aware of the irony that my topic was about communicating under pressure. Choking didn’t seem to be an option.”

Tillema told his audience that the strategies used by hostage negotiators can be successfully applied in everyday communication with a spouse, boss or coworker.

“Whether you’re trying to calm someone who is threatening suicide or trying to diffuse an uncomfortable situation with a co-worker, the basic principles of communication are the same and can be learned by anyone,” Tillema insists. “First, seek to understand. Learn what the other person wants. Also be aware of timing. You have to know when to talk and when to listen.”

Tillema says it’s essential to also be aware of your delivery.

“It’s not always what you say, but how you say it that matters,” he says. “It’s also important to never underestimate the power of respect. When you treat other people with dignity, you can often find common ground and achieve amazing results.”

Tillema, now married and the father of three, says that despite his years of experience in life-and-death negotiations, there are two people who successfully outmaneuver him in any conversation: his eldest children, ages 7 and 4.

“When it comes to getting what they want,” says Tillema, “they have a way of winning every time.”

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Stress: A Three Part Series | Part 3: Stress Prevention & Management


Throughout the past few weeks I have examined the effects of stress, ways to cope with stress, and in my last blog of this series, I will discuss how to prevent oneself from becoming overly or chronically stressed. Stress is inevitable, but it is how we deal with it and prepare for it that can make a big difference. Here are five stress management tips that you can follow in order to prevent yourself from becoming chronically stressed or overly stressed with a particular situation.

1. Mindfulness.

We often spend much of our day multitasking, thinking of what we need to do next, or having a dialog of everything we have on our plate. We do not spend much time in the moment, focusing on the one thing we are doing. The latter is mindfulness. We should take time out of our lives daily to accomplish this. The following is a quick example of a way to practice mindfulness:

Take a walk during your lunch hour. Maybe do a relaxation technique or two. Try to clear out your brain. During your walk, you are going to focus solely on the walk itself, using as many senses as you can. Start with what you are seeing around you. Examine your surroundings; focus on the nature, the cars, the sidewalk. Next, focus on the sounds you hear. Is it quiet? Can you hear the breeze in the trees? What noise does your show make hitting the pavement? Using your sense of hearing, try to pay attention on the sounds occurring around you. Next, move on to smells. Depending on the time of year, you might have different smells in the same place. Try to place your concentration on what you smell around you. Finally, we come to touch. With this sense, examine your bodily sensations. What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? How does the air feel on your skin? In this mindful walk, try to engage as many senses that you can. During your walk, leave the day behind and simply focus on being in the moment.

2. Self-care

We always seem to be taking care of others, our kids, our friends, our family. We help out in any way we can. In doing this, we often forget about ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we can get to a point where taking care of those we care about is difficult to impossible. Self-care could mean regularly engaging in a hobby, socializing with friends, exercising, finding something to relaxing or meditate, even for a few moments, each day.

3. Maintain a Healthy lifestyle

People deal with stress in many different ways. There are some that tend to turn to food for comfort, some people don’t eat. To ward off stress, some try to numb themselves with alcohol or drugs or sleep it away. These choices can be harmful to ourselves, often creating new stress. Making healthy choices can be a great way to keep your body strong and ready to handle whatever comes its way. This means eating healthy food, to give your body proper nourishment, getting regular exercise, which could be as simple as an evening walk to family or friends. Not only do we need to do healthy things for our bodies, but also our minds. We need breaks, we need self-care.

4. Write Down To Do Lists

We often have running lists in our head to keep track of all of the tasks that we need to complete. In order to not forget them, we can find ourselves thinking about them all of the time. This can be overwhelming and lead to stress. One thing that you can do to prevent this is to write it down. Keep lists of your daily/weekly/regular tasks. Focus on one task at a time. When you complete it, cross it off. It can feel good at the end of the day to see a paper full of crossed out tasks. It can help you feel accomplished. Anything that is left on the list does not need to be carried around and remembered because when you get time for the next task, it is on paper to remind you. Lists help us to remember our tasks, focus on what we are doing, as well as create positive rewards and satisfaction.

5. Understand what you can and cannot control

This one is tough. In life, there are things that we have control over like what time we wake up in the morning, what we choose to eat for breakfast, and there are things that we cannot control, for example traffic on the highway, and sometimes how people react to us or our situations. Often times we focus on what we cannot change, which creates much stress because we just have to live with the circumstances. If we begin to work on creating solutions for what we have control over, it can make stressful situation seem less so. As an example, maybe your boss reprimands you because you are always late for work. What can we not control? Traffic that makes us late, the coffee shop for being extra busy and getting your order wrong, twice, or how your boss handles the situation when you do finally arrive. You could focus on how your boss doesn’t understand the factors that caused you to be late, or you could ruminate on being reprimanded first thing in the morning. You could also focus on how much you hate traffic and how it really spoils a lot of things in your life. What you could also focus on is what control you do have. Maybe you could get up earlier in the morning and leave a half hour earlier. Possibly you could make breakfast at home. Finding the control you have in a situation and trying to let the rest go can go a long way in creating a less stressful environment for yourself.

Written by Cara Metz, Ed.D., LPC

Assistant Professor Counseling Program, Interim Chair of Counseling, Forensic Psychology, & I/O Psychology Programs at Argosy University, Denver

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Earn Your Degree in a Culturally Diverse & Growing City at Argosy University, Atlanta


Argosy University, Atlanta is located within a vibrant city that’s an eclectic mix of tree-lined neighborhoods and high-rise condos and skyscrapers. Students come to the school to study subjects ranging from Business Administration to Nursing, Clinical Psychology, Information Technology, Organizational Leadership, Human Resource Management, Public Health, and Criminal Justice. The school offers doctoral degrees, master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and associate’s degrees. Many programs have flexible learning formats that allow students to fit an education into their busy work and life schedules.

Once admitted to the university, students have access to the school’s library, which provides resources to support campus programs while encouraging life-long learning. The library maintains a specialized collection of books, scholarly journals, audiovisuals, reference materials, dissertations, and theses—reference materials that assist students at all levels of their education to grow academically and professionally. The library is also accessible online.

The instructors in Atlanta are professionals in their field and encourage students to achieve their school and career goals. Phyllis Verdell, who in 2015 earned a Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning from Argosy University, Atlanta says that the “faculty and staff were very helpful and flexible with the working students' schedules. They were very supportive in the classroom and outside of the classroom. I was so blessed to have been in a school where the professors understand the demands on students who have a full-time job and a full-time life outside of college,” she said.

Atlanta is a prominent business center with major employers including The Coca-Cola Company, CNN-Time Warner, Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, AT&T, and Georgia Pacific. The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce states that 25 companies in the Fortune 500 are based within the city. With such a large variety of potential careers in Atlanta, students may take advantage of internship opportunities with these companies to build experience in their field of study.

The largest city in Georgia, Atlanta is the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. and welcomed people from across the world in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Atlanta is known for its park-like environment, leading to its nickname of the “city in a forest.”

Living in Atlanta has its perks: Sports fans can follow Atlanta teams including the Braves, Hawks, and Falcons. And cultural outings include visits to the Atlanta Opera, Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and Alliance Theatre. The city’s High Museum of Art is one of the most visited museums in the world according to The Art Newspaper. And Atlanta is fast becoming known for its eclectic restaurant scene.

Going to college in Atlanta can be a valuable and rewarding experience. So take a look at all of the degrees that Argosy University, Atlanta has to offer. Then click through on the links to learn more about the programs and how they can help you to achieve your educational and career goals. If you’d like to talk to an admissions representative, call (855) 435-5334 or visit our admissions webpage. You can also stop by the school. Our address is 980 Hammond Drive, Suite 100 in Atlanta.

Doctoral Degrees

Master's Degrees

Bachelor's Degrees

Associate's Degrees

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Programs, credential levels, technology, and scheduling options vary by school and are subject to change. Not all online programs are available to residents of all U.S. states. Argosy University, 980 Hammond Drive, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30328 © 2017 Argosy University. All rights reserved. Our email address is

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