When he enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard in 1999, uppermost in Fred Mize’s mind was serving his country. Now a master sergeant, he is thinking about ways to better provide for his wife and six children when he retires from the military.
Fort Hays State University is offering a unique associate degree program that will give Mize and other military members like him the opportunity to do just that.
This fall, Fort Hays State will be the only university in the nation to offer the Associate of Applied Science in Technology and Leadership degree option for service members and veterans from all branches of the military. FHSU restructured existing technology and leadership programs into one and added a technology education requirement that utilized military training and experience.
FHSU already has a partnership with the Army that uses soldiers’ professional military education as part of this degree program, allowing degree completion in a shorter time span.
This particular associate program will award up to 36 credit hours (of 60 required) for military training and experience, including six hours of transfer credit using military leadership course substitutions. In addition to the associate degree, the program will award a certificate in leadership studies upon completion. Learning options include on campus, online or a mixture of both.
“Looking at the different degree programs online, that one piqued my interest because it’s leadership based,” Mize said. “In any profession, that’s important.”
With the credit for military experience, the AAS degree can be completed in one year, a bachelor’s degree in two more years and a master’s degree in an additional year. Dr. Seth Kastle, an Army veteran and assistant professor of leadership studies at FHSU, took the initiative to restructure the degree program.
“This degree is an accelerated first step for service members in attaining civilian credentials that will help them find meaningful employment after their time of service,” Kastle said. “They have been working in their fields for years. They have been practitioners of leadership since before they were old enough to purchase alcohol.”
The program caught the attention of Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant Potts, the top noncommissioned officer for the U.S. Army’s 95th Infantry Division, Fort Sill, Okla.
“I think it’s a great concept,” said Sgt. Maj. Potts. “There are a lot of folks who are continuing their education while they are still serving. Fort Hays State having this degree option is great.”
In addition to the opportunity to earn three degrees in four years, service members also receive an added benefit in continuing their education.
“In the military, as you get degrees, that fulfills a major requirement to advance your career,” Kastle said.
Mize, who plans to retire from the military in four years, said this new degree will positively impact him and his family.
“It’s something that’s been lacking for many years,” Mize said. “Soldiers like myself, with my experience, if I don’t have a degree to back that up when I retire, I wouldn’t be very marketable in the civilian world even though I have so many years of leadership experience. With a degree backing it up, we’re earning what we deserve.”