How 30 Years of Experience Helped Me Earn My Degree

Earning my undergraduate degree was initially just a bucket list item for me. I did a lot of self-study and on-the-job training during my more-than-20-year career in the Navy. I am a serial entrepreneur and have built and sold a number of businesses, been a financial planner, and worked with national civil rights organizations and youth programs. Over the span of my career, I have learned the skills necessary to be selected as a Navy Command Master Chief and in my civilian role as an Executive Director and President of Beowulf Defense and Security.

My position in the Navy allows me to lead, develop and mentor over 650 reserve sailors. Sailors are a unique breed, and the old-school management style of “do as I say, not as I do” is ineffective and inefficient for leading them. These sailors expect their leaders to have credibility behind their orders. I started to notice that a lot of my junior sailors were finishing undergraduate degrees or starting master’s programs. One was even completing a Ph.D. I recognized that as a senior military leader, I needed to lead by example when it came to my education. I couldn’t expect them to finish school when I hadn’t done it myself.

Over the years, I tried to complete my degree at brick-and-mortar schools. Family demands, time constraints, business commitments and deployment schedules made it difficult to complete my degree there. I still wanted to get my degree, but I didn’t know how it would be possible when I didn’t have time to make it to a physical campus for class. While I was managing a small defense contracting/consulting firm, one of my employees mentioned that he was completing his degree at Western Governors University. He stressed how the competency-based programs were ideal for someone like me who had a lot of experience, but needed flexibility due to my busy schedule.

I looked into WGU and liked how the flexible online programs would allow me to fit school into my full schedule. The affordability was also very important to me. WGU charges a flat-rate tuition per six-month term, no matter how many courses I completed. It didn’t take long for me to enroll in the B.S. in Business–Information Technology Management program. The ability to study and take my assessments on my time and at my own pace was perfect. Even though the program is online, I wasn’t alone. WGU connected me with a personal mentor who helped keep me on track during my program. We had regular phone calls to discuss my academic progress and what I needed to complete for the next week to stay on track. My mentor helped direct me to resources I needed for my courses, put me in contact with course mentors (subject matter experts) when I had questions, and helped me set attainable and realistic goals for my studies.

The flexibility WGU provided was such an asset. When I started my degree program I was an active-duty service member. Between deployments and other work responsibilities, having a degree program that fit into my life made getting my degree a reality, not just another bucket list item.

One of the best parts about WGU is the competency-based model. Competency-based education allowed me to make the most of my time. I had more than 20 years of professional experience going into my bachelor’s degree program. Thanks to WGU’s model I was able accelerate through my degree program by drawing on the experience I gained through years of work experiences. Instead of sitting through redundant lectures, classes, or programs, I could demonstrate that I knew and understood the material and move forward to focus on what I still needed to learn. I didn’t feel like I was wasting time with my studies because every task and assessment was related to real-world applications that I was dealing with on a daily basis. The way courses were structured gave me the theory necessary for developing a complete picture and subject mastery.

For the seasoned learner, experienced professional, working adult, and certainly the military service member, WGU is a time-efficient, cost-effective way to obtain your degree. I was able to make the most of my limited time to earn a degree, a benefit I hadn’t been afforded at more traditional universities. WGU worked so well for me that I recently enrolled in the MBA program and I’m excited about what the future holds for me.

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