In honor of Celebrate American Education Week on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Stone Education Center on Lewis Main hosted a special education fair on Tuesday inside the college mall.
Twenty-six colleges and universities, as well as military transition programs and organizations, set up tables to present educational and transitional opportunities for service members, veterans, spouses and other members of the military community.
In addition to the eight resident schools that offer classes on JBLM, there were schools offering various degree options from different parts of the state. And while each school wanted to attract service members to enroll, there was no sign of competition among the programs.
“This is the first time I’ve seen schools work together for the benefit of the student,” said Carol Jack, a counselor at Pierce College. “If there’s something we can’t offer, we direct them to another school.”
There were schools like Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle University and The Evergreen State College promoting traditional degree programs for undergraduate and graduate studies. There were also technical schools like Bates Technical College and Clover Park Technical College on hand offering another option for potential students.
Those options were appealing for Sgt. Major Matt Hill of Headquarters Support Company, I Corps, on JBLM. Hill came into the education fair interested in technical schools to pursue going into airframe or auto mechanical career fields. But he also gathered information from universities and colleges about business degrees, in case he wanted to work for himself one day.
“I can research online, but it’s always good to speak face-to-face,” Hill said. “You’re able to learn about other programs or the tracks they have.”
Some service members have only taken a few classes here and there, but were looking at what was available while they were stationed at JBLM. Specialist David Juarez of the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, was talking to schools that not only had a physical campus, but also offered online classes as well.
“So I can have opportunities when I get home and I can continue taking classes,” Juarez said.
Schools and programs also provided information to help military community members know how to utilize assistance toward their education, like the G.I. Bill and tuition assistance.
Schools informed interested parties about the flexibility of having the choice between online or in-class courses. Something that Greg Fennessy, the director of online operations at Northwest University’s College of Adult and Professional Studies, knows personally.
Fennessy retired from the Air Force in 2009 as a master sergeant with the 4th Airlift Squadron on McChord Field. He was able to take online classes to work his way to a master’s degree from Hawaii Pacific University.
Now he’s proud to help a school established in Washington state that can provide a wide reach of online opportunities that can be vital for those serving.
“For me, I would have never completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees without the help of online (courses),” Fennessy said.
But there were additional options beyond associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Sojourner Thomas, an installation administrator for JBLM Career Skills Program, was also present to provide information about the various fellowship and training programs.
Through the program, transitioning service members and spouses within 180 days of their separation date, are able to enroll in internship and training courses like the Commercial Driver School or Veterans in Piping.
Some even count as college credits that can be transferred toward a degree down the road, like Microsoft’s Software and Systems Academy for example.
“It prepares everyone for civilian careers with a guaranteed interview with an employer,” Thomas said. “It’s good to start looking at them early, like a year out. Some programs have testing and interviews.”