My personal interest in working with service members to complete their college degrees comes from growing up as an Army Brat, working with the Army for 10 years, and completing a master’s project on the need for student services for active duty military and veterans enrolled in college. Today, I coach students from all branches of the military—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. Together, they represent approximately 60 percent active duty military, 30 percent veterans, and 10 percent nonmilitary.
I support a university that has always had a special understanding of the needs of military students. For example, military students have long been able to transfer all of their previous college credits towards their degree. Given that military personnel move from base to base, this policy made the university a really great choice for active duty students. It also has a program that is particularly appealing to sailors in the nuclear field, in addition to offering a variety of bachelor’s programs in Liberal Arts, Business, and Technology. And given the geographical diversity of the student body, this university is also a leader in online course delivery.
I coach students who live all over the United States and in Germany, Italy, Bahrain, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Japan, and South Korea. I once had a student answer the phone from an undisclosed jungle somewhere in South America. I even coached a soldier whose address was the North Pole. She sent me a picture with Santa to prove they were neighbors. I have also coached sailors who were enrolled in classes while aboard ships.
While I do coach many younger individuals, it is not uncommon for my students to be in their 30’s and 40’s and typically have more than 20 in the military. My oldest student is 64 years old. Many of our meetings revolve around graduate school and civilian life after a military career.
Among their many challenges, active duty online students often have to “stop out” (leave with the intent to return) for a term or more due to deployments, trainings, or temporary duty, and even reassignment to a submarine. After all, when you’re serving your country from places all over the world, it’s not simply a matter of finding a local library or the nearest Starbucks to get online…and there are no Internet connections under water just yet.
Given the routine nature of “unexpected circumstances,” I work with my military students to develop a long-term vision of what their degree will mean to them, what obstacles could come up, and how they will make it to the finish line.
The dedication of these students despite the most difficult situations inspires me to bring my “A” game to every coaching session. I make sure that I am extremely prepared every time I dial the phone. I also regularly coordinate with the members of my coaching team to share ideas, resources, and strategies on impactful coaching topics and techniques.
It’s great being in an environment where the students I serve, my teammates, and my manager are all extraordinary people. The dedication, professionalism, and caring demonstrated by my colleagues help make this work the joy that it is.
I would love to hear your experiences working with military students since insights from others can be very inspiring and enlightening. So, please send me your questions or comments at programs@InsideTrack.com.