Military veteran says the greatest challenge of her life led her to Saint Leo's University's online MSW program.

By Tanya Rogers, LGSW, MHS
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program Analyst
Commander, Navy Installations Command

In my efforts to achieve personal and professional growth, I joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and served honorably from 1997 until 2005.

My time in the military afforded me the opportunity to not only learn the infrastructure, but also understand the stressors and traumas being faced by my fellow service members. My comprehension of the military was further expanded in 2005 when I married my husband who was a member of the U.S. Army.

While serving in the National Guard, I completed my associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. I also began and dedicated my work to human services and social work.

In 2007, my husband transitioned from the Army to the Navy, and I, once again, adapted to a new community in Norfolk, Va. Within a short time, I accepted a position as the Navy's Sexual Assault Program Supervisor for Hampton Roads.

Assisting victims of sexual assault

While serving in this position, I had the opportunity to not only lead a team of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs), but also supported active duty victims of sexual assault, worked with installation commands increasing sexual assault awareness, and coordinated sexual assault prevention efforts. This position provided an opportunity to instill the very core values that are taught by Saint Leo today.

In March 2012, I accepted a promotion at the program headquarters in Washington, D.C. affording me the opportunity to continue to work within the Navy SAPR Program at a macro level and bring my knowledge and experience as a SARC to help facilitate systemic change for the population we serve.

Working in Washington, D.C.

Like other SAPR Program Analysts, I ensure SARCs provide service excellence. I try to foster an environment where SARCs can develop the skills to carry out the mission of the program, while individually supporting the survivors impacted by sexual assault.

The program supports a community within the Navy where trust is delicate and it is imperative to not only listen, but to learn from their experiences, advocate for change when necessary, while providing services for those who have no voice. The program reinforces respect and personal development and having the ability to share each other's strengths and limitations yet supporting one another in the process of growth while balancing work and personal life.

My work at the macro level reverberates through the lives of the service members the program supports. Working within this program has provided me with a different social work experience and has truly allowed for my own personal development as I have committed myself to the mission and integrity of the program.

Reasons for pursuing an MSW

My experiences in working with military survivors of sexual assault introduced me to a need that existed for the military community. It was a constant nagging reminder every day to know that I needed to do more to practice responsible stewardship and make sure that survivors were getting the services and resources they needed. So, I began to explore returning to school for an MSW.

However, it was a more personal reason that drove me to eventually pursue my MSW.

As a military spouse, I needed help saving my husband's life and keeping our family together.

After multiple combat deployments, I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life, combat military trauma aka PTSD.

You see, my husband was an Explosive Ordinance Technician, a bomb technician, and no words can describe what he faced during his multiple deployments throughout 2003 - 2007. But what I knew was that he was broken and he deserved to be helped.

After what seemed insurmountable odds, he was able to find a program to help him.

There was a delay in getting the help because the military is facing an overwhelming need and not enough social workers to meet that need. I am happy to say that my husband was returned to full active duty after successfully completing his treatment.

Finding Saint Leo University

With this experience I went into action, I conducted research and found Saint Leo had a program that would allow me to continue working and care for my family while I worked toward my goal. Most importantly, it was geared toward social work in the military. I was overjoyed when I received my acceptance letter.

I will not deny that there were hardships while I completed the program. But what I will say is that it was a journey of learning and personal growth.

I made new friends and colleagues. I gained new insight on many personal and professional issues. I also learned a great deal about how to apply what I learned within a military setting.

Most importantly, I achieved my goal of completing my MSW. I am proud to say that I am a Saint Leo Lion and that I was a part of the 2013 MSW cohort.

Tanya Rogers continues her work with the Navy's Sexual Assault Program and also works as a therapist for a domestic violence batterers program. She and her husband, Matthew, and their 8 and 5-year-old children live in the Washington, D.C. area where they devote personal time to supporting wounded warriors through various non-profit programs.

National Social Work Month

The National Association of Social Workers has designated March as National Social Work Month. For more information about National Social Work Month 2015 or the social work profession, visit This year's theme is "Social Work Paves the Way for Change."

Images courtesy Tanya Rogers