Getting an Education as a Military Wife

Letter to the Editor by Sarah Kirkland, May 2011 Candidate for Graduation

Living as a Marine wife in North Carolina has given me a different perspective on schooling and education. Many of us go to college as a result of simple progression from high school. However, when I met my husband and moved from Illinois to North Carolina, I found that everything was no longer handed to me. Getting married meant giving up finishing my education at Southern Illinois University, and starting a life as an unemployed, partially college educated young adult. My passion for finishing my degree and utilizing it for better job opportunities made college education a goal, rather than a task.

Having disrupted my education in the wake of getting married, finding a school in a new state to complete my bachelor’s degree was difficult. Major universities were not within driving distance of my new home, and community colleges did not offer bachelor degree programs. University of Mount Olive at New Bern had been advertised in several commercials and billboards, promoting the various one-night-a-week degree programs that it offered. Moving down to North Carolina in the middle of October meant that traditional school schedules would not allow me to start classes until the spring semester. Afraid of putting my education on hold for months, University of Mount Olive at New Bern offered a criminal justice program that started in the beginning of November. Upon acceptance into the college, I was able to continue my degree in criminal justice.

The advantages of the non-traditional schedule of University of Mount Olive at New Bern allowed me to start a family. I was blessed with my son in June 2009, which happened to be in the middle of my cohort’s second semester. As my husband was currently deployed to Afghanistan, I was forced to take on motherhood on my own, as all of my family lives in Illinois and Texas.

Taking care of my son became my one and only priority, and I had to put my degree on hold. The flexibility of the non-traditional degree program at University of Mount Olive at New Bern allowed me to take the next few months off until my husband returned in October. I was able to transition back into classes smoothly in January of the following year. Though I had been placed in a different cohort, I was able to resume my classes where I had previously left off.

Being a military wife and full-time mother would not have fit the bill for traditional university schedules. University of Mount Olive at New Bern has afforded me an education that I might not have otherwise been able to achieve. Through their one-night-a-week degree program, I have been able to fulfill my dreams of completing my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and work toward a higher goal for myself.