Soldiers, Family members seek academic opportunities at education fair

Soldiers speak with representatives from various universities Oct. 1 at the education fair at the Staff Sgt. Glenn H. English Jr. Army Education Center. Representatives from 23 colleges including Austin Peay State University, Norwich University, Full Sail University were on hand to share information about their programs and approximately 290 Soldiers, Family members and veterans took advantage of the opportunity to speak with them.

The Staff Sgt. Glenn H. English Jr. Army Education Center hosted an education fair Oct. 1 to allow Soldiers, Families, and veterans to explore educational opportunities offered at 23 colleges and universities.

Approximately 290 Soldiers, Family members, and veterans took advantage of the opportunity to speak to representatives from Austin Peay State University, Norwich University, Full Sail University and others, to determine if the institution lined up with their professional goals and academic pursuits.

Golden opportunity

The Army’s Continuing Education benefits and programs allow Soldiers to pursue higher education to help them enrich their careers in the Army and prepare them for the future, said Kimberley Bendlage, chief of counseling at the education center. Yet, some Soldiers choose not to use it.

One central obstacle Soldiers have identified that hinders them from pursuing higher education is their busy work schedules, Bendlage said.

“One of the barriers and concerns for many Soldiers in pursuing college courses is the belief that they don’t have the time due to work schedules and home life balance. Soldiers are encouraged to visit the education center and speak with a counselor who will assist them in finding a balance while pursuing a college degree or credential,” she said.

There are a variety of options pertaining to learning modalities that are available to assist them in taking courses with their busy schedules, such as online classes, traditional classrooms, and blended learning.

“Counselors help Soldiers identify their interests and needs to begin their education journey,” Bendlage said.

Julius Kelley, scholarship officer with Austin Peay State University, said APSU makes an effort to work with Soldiers and their schedules.

“They can start slow, individuals can do classes at their own pace, especially at Austin Peay,” Kelley said. “You can take a class in the evening. You can take a class on the weekend, and you don’t have to be a full-time student to continue that education.”

If the funds are there for tuition assistance, Soldiers would be wise to use them.

“Start taking classes. You’ve got tuition assistance, you might as well use it,” Kelley said.

Staying competitive

Completing a degree is a great way to stay competitive in the workforce, both in and out of the Army, said Staff Sgt. Marcus McKinney, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

“If you’re staying in or getting out, professional growth will help you get a job anywhere, inside or outside of the military,” McKinney said.

Events like this are a great resource, he said. Sometimes it only takes one Soldier to go and take the information back to their respective units to make a difference.

“It’s important because many people don’t know that certain opportunities exist,” McKinney said. “The more people put things out there, the more it helps. Maybe if one person comes, they can take that information and share it throughout the whole formation.”

Higher education contributes to desirable qualifications in the civilian world, Kelley said, it’s also an aspect of mission readiness and contributes to leadership development in Soldiers.

“The Army wants smart Soldiers,” he said. “Any organization out there, you cannot be stagnant now. You have to continue that higher education.”

To make an appointment with an education counselor or to inquire about services at the Staff Sgt. Glenn H. English Jr. Army Education Center, call 270-798-3201.

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