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  • Real Veterans discuss the Pros of Online College

    Tuesday, August 09, 2016

    Amanda Hart and Joe Laskowski have never met one another; yet they are bonded by a unique experience...both are military veterans. Hear what they have to say about life as a Dragon.


    1. Tell us a little about yourself (name, branch, where you’re from). 
    My name is Amanda Hart, and I was in the Army National Guard for 6 years. I live in Reading, PA. After completing my military service, I attended Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences and obtained my diploma in nursing.  After working as an ED nurse at Reading Health System for a few years, I started the online RN to BSN program at Drexel University. Once I graduated with my BSN, I decided to continue on for my MSN in Nursing Education last fall. Currently, I am a staff emergency/trauma nurse at the Reading Hospital Emergency Department. I also serve as the co-chair for the department's Practice Council, responsible for incorporating evidence-based practice into the care we provide for patients. I also serve on the disaster planning and alarm management teams. 

    I am Joseph Laskowski, a student of Drexel's online MS in Information Systems program. I am currently married with two grown children; during the years that I was in the military, I was married with one young child. My employment has been in the private and public sectors. At this time, I am a government worker in the Department of Justice. My work experience has been in many fields: electronics, electrical, mechanical and computing. I enjoy learning new skills, and in today's environment, continuous education is a part of working in the technology sector. My jobs have taken me all over the United States. Last summer, I was able to work at the Marine Corp Base at Quantico for about 90 days. The military atmosphere brought back many memories.

    2. Why did you choose Drexel?
    {AH}:  I selected Drexel due to their partner discount with my employer, their prestigious reputation, and their great veterans support programs. After completing my bachelor's, I was very satisfied with my experience with Drexel University online, so I chose Drexel again! The Office of Veteran Student Services has been absolutely amazing in supporting me through my education at Drexel University. 

    {JL}: I work in Philadelphia and live in New Jersey, but I need the ability to travel on short notice as part of my job duties. Almost all of my jobs have required the ability to travel, which would preclude me from committing to on-campus classroom instruction. There are many strong quality educational institutions in the Philadelphia area. After studying the programs of these schools, I felt, from my life experiences, that Drexel had the strongest computing college department. Drexel University’s Masters of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) was one of the first online programs of its type. Drexel’s MSIS is a fifteen course program; most programs are ten course programs. Anyone just trying to get an MSIS check-off on their resume will pick an institution with a lighter course load. Because of this rigorous course load, I knew I was going to be in class with motivated students like myself.

    3. Why was an online program the right choice for you?
    {AH}: I chose an online program because I work from 1100-2330 hours (military time) 2-3 days a week, and I have a child! Attending classic evening classes wasn't an option for me. I loved the idea of an asynchronous program where I could complete my schoolwork whenever it was convenient to me. 

    {JL}: Drexel has a long history of military affiliation. The entire University participates in events honoring the military as well as their families. In general, the staff is sincerely interested in improving the military student experience with the goal of having every student become an alumni. During graduation ceremonies, veterans are issued a special honor cord indicating their military service and Drexel has a very active Veterans Alumni Association Network (DVAN). On November 11, 2014, Chuck Vincent, one of the founding members of DVAN, presented a flag that was flown over the Pearl Harbor Memorial to Drexel’s military artifact collection. In that gathering, I felt a special pride with some very special people at Drexel University.

    4. What motivated you to start your academic journey
    {AH}: I initially started my journey obtaining my diploma in nursing after my time in the military concluded. I volunteered as an EMT in between military training and deployments, and that was what helped me find my passion in health care. I chose to continue on my journey by attending Drexel University because I wanted to advance my education and provide myself with more opportunities in the future. I also wanted to take advantage of tuition reimbursement offered by my employer, which Drexel University makes very easy to do. With the employer reimbursement program, I haven't had to pay anything out of pocket for my classes.   

    {JL}: I have completed four undergraduate degrees over a span of 20 years at night while working full-time. I completed my Bachelor's in Electronics Engineering Technology while serving in the USNR. Qualifications in the technology sector are constantly changing. There is a military expression — "Adapt or die" — and while the civilian world is not quite as harsh, one still must constantly adapt and evolve their individual talents. The worst feeling in the world is not being able to find gainful employment. When I was 23, I had been a certified marine mechanic for more than four years when I was laid-off. I cannot describe how I felt — it was not my fault, but I was out of a job. I vowed to diversify my skill set and constantly take classes which would prepare me for anticipated technology trends. My continuing education at night became continuous education for life.

    5. How did you make the transition from a military to an academic environment? 
    {AH}: Serving in the National Guard made the transition from military to the academic lifestyle easier. Coming home from my deployment and training periods were difficult, because it is such a different life! My military service provided me with the discipline needed to complete an online program. 

    {JL}: Military experience can be invaluable in going back to school. Veterans and current service members are disciplined and goal-oriented. In many circumstances, the military provides a wide variety of life experiences which cannot be easily duplicated in civilian life.

    6. What advice do you have for other military students starting an online program? 
    {AH}: For military students, my advice is to keep in touch with the staff at the Office of Veteran Student Services!  Their services are so valuable, and they will do anything they can to help you succeed. Make sure you utilize your benefits! The Office of Veteran Student Services can help you if you have any questions about them, and so can your local VA office. 

    {JL}: Use every resource that the school of your choice offers. Drexel, like other Yellow Ribbon Schools, allows veterans priority choice of registration for classes. I cannot overstate how much this benefits a student. This important benefit allows military students to complete prerequisite courses and ensures graduation in the least amount of time. Experienced military-friendly schools offer tutoring, writing reviews, study groups and more to ease the transition into school. Get to know your academic adviser and visit them often, even when you do not feel you have any problems. Contact your school's military enrollment counselor immediately if you have questions about your benefits. While fellow veterans can provide an amazing network, do not be afraid to network with new friends and instructors outside of the military circle as well.

    7. What has your experience been like as a student veteran?
    {JL}: At Drexel, the same world-class professors who teach classroom courses and perform research also teach the online courses. Online students benefit from every resource available to the traditional students. There is a symbiotic relationship which completely eliminates any type of distinction between online students and classroom students. Students can contact their professors in many ways: in-person, phone, email, classroom discussion boards, etc. Since I work in Philadelphia, I have attended many Drexel events and participate in the Drexel Veterans Association (DVA). The DVA continues Drexel's online outreach to all of its students and alumni through live video teleconference streams through social media sites. DVA meetings are streamed, with Drexel students and alumni able to actively participate in real-time.


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