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Sailor recognizes professors for going beyond call of duty in degree pursuit

Office of Communications & Marketing | Northeastern State University
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- Northeastern State University Master’s in Criminal Justice student and Petty Officer Alex Lauderdale understands all too well the challenges of juggling a military and civilian life. He has been doing it since 2007.

Veterans pursuing a degree often manage a schedule of deployment with their full-time coursework. And that can be even more challenging with a master’s degree schedule--if you miss a class it can set you behind a year in the program.

After years of deployments, Lauderdale wanted to recognize his instructors for their work to keep him on track to get his master’s degree in December. On Feb. 28, he and his commander, Tony Ochoa, are going to surprise his instructors with a certificate and flag that was flown at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. This flag also accompanied him on missions through some of the most dangerous territory in the region. He will also present his instructors Dr. Michael Wilds, Dr. Frank Zeigler, James “Buster” Hall and Dr. Pam Mertens with challenge coins representing his battalion. A challenge coin is a small medallion bearing an organization’s insignia or emblem, and carried by its members, and often they are used to recognize special achievement by a member of the unit.

When pursuing their degrees, veterans such as Lauderdale often don’t realize they can ask their instructors for help. In addition to the challenges of juggling a career that takes you thousands of miles from the classroom, Lauderdale adds, “communication can also be limited in those remote conditions.” He often worked ahead of his class schedules to keep his degree on track, so when he comes home he is prepared for his next career transition. According to Lauderdale, “It connected me with home, and helped me stay goal-oriented.”

“NSU has been an excellent school for me,” adds Lauderdale. “One of the best things about my experience is that I had instructors with real world experience. They had worked in the field and shared experiences that went beyond the books. In the Master’s program, the students were more focused. Most students are in a career, and working to excel themselves. I really got something out of each and every class.”

He looks forward to following in the footsteps of his father, Detective John Lauderdale, retired from the Muskogee Police force.

According to Department Chair Rob Wallace and Coordinator of Veteran Services, Tina Wells, career paths such as Criminal Justice, Nursing, Computer Information, Homeland Security, and Emergency Management are just a few of the programs that often appeal to the veteran populations that NSU serves.

Last year NSU enrolled approximately 400 veterans in the fall, and 300 in the spring semester, but Veteran Services Coordinator, Tina Wells, wishes even more veterans would take advantage of these higher education benefits. According to Wells, “We are here to help streamline the enrollment process, and help them make sure their benefits are received in a timely manner.”

The university has been honored in G.I. Job’s 2014 list of Military Friendly Schools. An honor that puts it in the top 20 percent of schools nationwide for embracing America’s student veterans.

Published: 2/28/2014 10:32:51 AM

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