During her 18-year-career with the U.S. Navy, Chief Petty Officer Kathy Myers deployed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk to Japan and the USS Harry S. Truman to the Middle East.
She was stationed at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda and Naval Hospital Jacksonville as a hospital corpsman.
Today, she works at Naval Health Clinic Annapolis as chief petty officer and equal opportunity (EO) assistant.
While her duty station has changed multiple times, Kathy's commitment has not. Throughout her career, she has remained dedicated to serving fellow shipmates, helping heal heroes and their family members, offering compassion, and providing leadership.
Online degree programs fit mobile military lifestyle
Kathy joined the Navy in 1997 when she was 18. Since then, she has been managing a successful military career while raising a son, Judah, who is now 12, loves football, and wants to become a financial advisor.
At the same time, Kathy also has been advancing her education.
Kathy earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Saint Leo University five years ago. She's now back with Saint Leo working toward a bachelor's degree in human resource management. The HR field is a perfect fit for a kind-hearted sailor who intends to continue caring for people as an EO manager when she retires from the Navy.
For both her associate and bachelor's degrees, Kathy opted for the flexibility and convenience of Saint Leo's online degree programs.
Preparing for a management position in HR
As an EO assistant at the Naval Health Clinic, Kathy learns about the human resource field first-hand, developing skills that will prepare her for an EO manager position when she completes her online HR management degree and retires from the military in a few years.
"I enjoy talking with people and helping them get to a sound resolution. When people aren't thinking clearly, I can be a voice of reason," she says.
Getting through her next term, in particular, will be a challenge. She's taking Business Law and Finance for Managers with Saint Leo and the Senior Enlisted Academy, which is a leadership course for her military career. In addition, she will be traveling to Italy, transferring commands.
Despite the packed schedule, she's determined to succeed.
"The next few months will be interesting. But I couldn't pass up any of the opportunities, even though they are happening all at once. Everything will be beneficial to my career," she says.
We asked Kathy to tell us a little more about her time as an active-duty student.
Describe your military career.
Kathy: I'm a medic by training, so a lot of my responsibilities have been centered on that training. I went to surgical technician school in San Diego and have worked at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland as well as in Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where I was a hospital corpsman.
I've been stationed on two air craft carriers – the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan and the USS Harry S Truman, where we forward deployed conducting operations in the Middle East. I'm now back at Naval Health Clinic Annapolis providing care for people going through the Naval Academy.
Tell us more about your current job.
Kathy: As a chief petty officer, my role is to guide, lead, mentor and train sailors. Also, I'm an equal opportunity assistant, and I help ensure everyone is treated equally and fairly. We monitor things such as education requirements for the facility where I work. As issues arise, I help address them or forward them up the chain of command, if necessary.
The experience is part of why I'm pursing my degree in human resource management. Throughout the years, I've had opportunities to talk with my HR representative about how things are working, and I'm learning the lingo and other important aspects to familiarize myself with the field.
What do you enjoy about HR?
Kathy: I enjoy the interaction and problem-solving that comes with human resources. Helping and educating people on career goals and correct processes within the workforce are reasons why I choose this field. It's a great way to work in management as a leader in the workforce.
Who's your support system?
Kathy: My family, friends and especially my son, provide a great support network. There have been times when his football coach would pick him up for practice while I'm working on class assignments.
My son is always asking questions about what I'm doing and how my grades are. We've joked about a competition for the highest GPA. He encourages me to do well, and he sees me working on furthering my education. There are times when we sit at the table together working on our own homework. I'm so thankful he's seeing me work through the assignments. It shows him he can do it, too.
My advisers at Saint Leo have been a huge support, as well. They have been great at figuring out the best way for me to finish my degree. We worked out a plan, which has some flexibility to it, and they have addressed credit for classes I've completed in the past. They even answer questions about classes and books. They are there to help students succeed no matter what.
What advice do you have for adults who want to combine work and an online degree program?
Kathy: An online degree program is clearly different from a traditional classroom setting; however, the instructors at Saint Leo are really responsive. They always make time to help. And, there are some courses, like statistics, where you can use other avenues for help like online videos.
If you're good at managing your time, you'll be able to pursue a degree. Scheduling your week around assignment due dates are a must. Most assignments are due on Thursdays with quizzes or exams on Sundays. This allows ample time to read assignments and maintain family and work life balance.
Don't underestimate your ability to manage taking classes with a busy lifestyle. If earning a degree is really something you want to do, you can make it happen, too.
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Image credits: U.S. Navy and courtesy Kathy Myers