Story by Douglas Stutz on 07/26/2019When Naval Base Kitsap Navy College Program asked Capt. Thecly Scott, Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) executive officer to be their keynote speaker at their graduation ceremony, little did she realize that approximately 25 percent of those graduating would be from her command.
Such was the case as 23 service members from various commands in the greater Pacific Northwest - including six Sailors from NHB became college graduates with varied associates, bachelors, and academic certificates on July 25, 2019, at the Navy College Program Graduation Ceremony held at U.S. Naval Undersea Museum Keyport.
"This is such an honor for us to be here to celebrate you journey of academic excellence. You've accomplished your goal. It took relentless perseverance to complete your degree on your off duty time. The road was hard. It took dedication to overcome many obstacles to achieve your goal," said Scott.
Receiving their degree from NHB were Personnel Specialist 1st Class Sylvia Chemiati with her Associates of Arts in General Studies from University of Maryland Global Campus; Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Benjamin Chapin with his Bachelor of Science, cum laude, in Health Administration from University of Toledo; Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Donald Irwin with his Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science: Conservation from Southern New Hampshire University; Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Brian Romero with his Associates of Science in Health Sciences from Purdue University Global; Hospitalman Travis Klingensmith with his Associates of Science in Health Sciences from Purdue University Global; and recently retired HM1 Shaun Aragon with his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from University of Maryland Global Campus.
Other commands represented were Command Navy Region Northwest, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Naval Health Clinic Oak Harbor, Naval Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Center Puget Sound, Office of Civilian Human Resources Northwest, Submarine Development Squadron 5, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Commander Electronic Attack Wing Pacific, and Patrol Squadron One (VP-1).
This ceremony was the first since 2016 after Navy College offices were closed.
The distance learning format, with schools delivering coursework from outlying campuses mainly by computer coursework had graduates from Ashford University, Colorado State University Golden, Columbia Southern University, East Coast Polytechnic Institute, Excelsior College, Grantham, Liberty University, National American, Old Dominion University, Purdue University Global, Rutgers, Southern New Hampshire University, University of Maryland University College, University of New England, University of Toledo, and Villanova.
Being able to attend college-level classes and attain a degree are why Irwin chose to be assigned at NHB.
"Being a college graduate was my number one goal when I picked this duty station. Southern New Hampshire University had the degree I wanted and I could pursue it at any duty station location. I started with them around January 2017, and I finish my last class this August," said Irwin, adding that there is a feeling of fulfillment having achieved his higher education goal.
"What's gratifying is the feeling of accomplishment. I can now use this degree to pursue the officer side of the Navy and provide a better quality life for my wife and three month old daughter," said Irwin.
Although most of the course work was manageable with duty and family commitments, there still were times it was an effort to juggle all responsibilities.
"The classes were easy going since I only attended two classes every eight weeks. The work load was just enough. But in the early part of 2019, I had to take chemistry, chemistry lab, and an environmental science class in one term, followed by another term with biology, biology lab, and another environmental class. Needless to say, three classes per term for two terms was a large work load which ended right when my daughter was born," Irwin related.
For Chapin, receiving his degree via the Navy College distance learning was one of the reason why he joined the Navy. The distance learning option also allowed him to pursue his choice of undergraduate degree because it was easier to complete moving from one duty station to another.
"I did a permanent change of station (move) twice and deployed once while going to the University of Toledo and was able to complete my degree on time. It took me approximately four years while studying part time to complete the program and seven years total. After all the long hours of studying, I am glad to finally move forward with the next step," explained Chapin, adding that trying to manage his time between duty, moving, deployment(s) in order keep his good grades up at times was difficult. But all that hard work paid off.
For someone interesting in pursuing a degree, just start with one class and move forward from there," said Chapin. "Sometimes the hardest part in starting in any program is just to make that first step."
According to Roseann Cook, Navy College Program Region Adviser, there were 7,910 graduates who completed degrees and academic certificates at all levels since July, 2018 to the present.
Although Cook and her co-worker no longer work directly with students, they still find fulfillment in seeing students set up and work a plan towards their graduation goal.
"Seeing them complete a degree brings the most satisfaction. Being able to plan and take part in the upcoming graduation recognition ceremony is the big highlight of our year. There is nothing quite like seeing them in caps and gowns, seeing their smiles and their families around them," said Cook, adding that any Sailor achieving their degree gives them quite a bit of power in career and education management.
For more information in the Navy College program: https://www.navycollege.navy.mil.