We recently paid a visit to Saint Leo University’s MacDill Education Office on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Three current Saint Leo students who take classes at this location were generous enough to share their experiences as a military student and what Saint Leo has meant to them in their lives.
Channie (chose not to mention her last name)
She was born in China and moved to the U.S. in 2010. She is a U.S. Air Force senior airman who does financial management. She joined the Air Force in 2016 and attributes her decision to enlist to having watched a number of riveting military-themed movies.
“Seeing movies like Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor really inspired me,” she says.
With Saint Leo, She is working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing having enrolled in 2018.
“I was really interested in the program because it is highly related to my job working in finance,” she says. “I know it will benefit me and overall will help me better perform my job in financial management.”
Her experience in the degree program has been positive and has fit her lifestyle well.
“This has been a very good program. The schedule for my classes has been very flexible so it’s worked out perfectly for me.”
When asked about her favorite instructor, Kim Payne immediately comes to her mind.
“His class was the first one I had that didn’t require a textbook. He is always very responsive, funny and makes the material easy to understand. He has given me a lot of confidence in myself as a student.”
She currently takes courses at both the MacDill location and at the Tampa Education Center.
She talks about why active-duty military members should consider earning a college degree if they don’t already have one.
“The hardest part is to get started on the degree,” she says. “But if you really want it and have a good advisor, it is definitely doable. It can be stressful at times, but I think it’s a good stress. I try to use it as a distraction from work stress.”
Lechard Jones, 39, retired from the Air Force for medical reasons after a 15-year career in which he earned the rank of staff sergeant E5.
“I was a personnelist and did a lot of HR-type work,” Jones explains.
He comes from a military family with both his father and brother having served.
He enrolled in Saint Leo’s BA in Human Resource Management program in the spring of 2018. In his view, Dr. Helen MacLennan is his favorite instructor.
“The atmosphere she sets in her classes is great. She has a very motherly attitude, which makes for an easy learning environment. She’s also very interactive and is always talking with students during our classes.”
He adds that taking classes with fellow military members and veterans is a big plus.
“The language we use amongst each other makes for a comfortable environment because we can all relate in some way to the military,” he explains.
Jones currently works in HR as a civil service employee at the Air Force Education Center on base.
Cedric Parson, 40, just retired in February as a master sergeant in the Air Force after nearly 22 years of service. His jobs included quality compliance, patient advocacy, medical clearances and a number of other duties. He also had two brothers serve in the Air Force.
“I came over to inquire about the CLEP exams I could take. I was able to take several of these exams and got about 40 credits’ worth of classes completed through the exams before I even started the coursework.”
He enrolled in Saint Leo’s Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration program in 2015. Louis Reyna, the associate director of the MacDill Education Office, and Dr. MacLellan have both made a very positive impact on him.
“Louis has been so supportive,” he says. “With Dr. MacLellan, her classes don’t feel like school because they’re so interactive and conversational. Somehow she brings it all together. I’d also say all of my professors are very accessible and easy to get in touch with if I ever have questions outside of class.”
Additionally, the convenience of the MacDill location and Saint Leo’s core values are key aspects for him.
“Being a dad of three, I love the convenience of this location,” he says. “Also, the Air Force’s core values directly align with those of Saint Leo University, such as excellence, community service and service before self.”