Archive | Education Options

How to Pick and Stick to Career Goals

career-goals-online-studentsBy Susan Adams

It’s not easy to become a medical school professor, especially if you’re a woman. Only 38% of full-time faculty members at accredited med schools are female, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). That daunting statistic is one of the reasons Nadine Katz, a professor of clinical ob-gyn and women’s health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and vice president and medical director at  Montefiore Medical Center’s Einstein campus, got interested in helping aspiring female med school professors achieve their goals.

Katz taught a leadership course at AAMC for  ten years. One of the themes she covered: how to pick and stick to career goals. Her strategy has proved effective in the medical realm, but she has also found that it applies to any profession and to men and women alike.

The first step, according to Katz: Take full responsibility for your career. You may be sailing along with tons of support from your colleagues, your family and your boss. But you need to take hold of your future. “Your success and your promotion should be your focus,” she says. “When you choose projects and you get involved in service work or committees, there should be a strategy to that,” she adds. Too many of us get swept up entirely in day-to-day matters, she observes.

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Posted in Education Options, Tip of the Day

The NSA School: How the Intelligence Community Gets Smarter, Secretly

educating-ICBy Susan Svrluga
The Washington Post

Leonard Reinsfelder’s wife found a note on her car as she was leaving a shopping center one day: “Have your husband give us a call. We think we could use him.”

There was a phone number, and nothing else.

So began Reinsfelder’s career at the National Cryptologic School, which functions as a sort of college for the National Security Agency and the intelligence community.

Reinsfelder, a high-school Spanish teacher with multiple graduate degrees, took the job not knowing what it would be; they couldn’t tell him until he got inside and got security clearance.

The National Cryptologic School is a school unlike any other. It’s extremely carefully guarded, for starters, with a series of checkpoints to get to class.

Some of the students’ identities are secret.

There’s no homework to take home. (It’s classified.)

No cellphones or computers can be brought inside, so the break areas have a surreal, throwback feel. There are landlines, some secure, for checking in on work. Some are not, for checking in on family.

And it has a most unusual mission: Teaching people whose jobs protecting the nation require them to stay ahead of rapidly evolving threats and technology.

The NSA has been sharply criticized in recent years for its efforts to collect all sorts of data, and it also is feared by some; it’s a flashpoint in the debate over privacy and national security.

[Federal appeals court allows NSA phone data collection to run through November]

It’s also huge — the NSA is one of the Washington region’s largest employers. And all those people need to keep learning.

Reinsfelder, now the commandant of the National Cryptologic School, led a celebration of its 50th year this week, reflecting on a history that mirrors that of the country, as its instructors adapted curricula to respond to a changing world.

The school plays a critical role in keeping the country safe, said Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president and director of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University. In a speech marking the school’s anniversary, he talked of how much impact intelligence information has on policy decisions at the highest levels. “It is greatly and deeply appreciated.”

“You are the silent warriors, those of you in uniform as well as the civilians,” he said. “You save lives.”

The National Cryptologic School’s roots go back even further than 1965 — all the way to the American Revolution, Cilluffo argued.

“George Washington was America’s first spy master,” he said, with Washington’s men learning to intercept messages from the British soldiers, and to deceive them. “He deployed sophisticated trade craft, including ciphers and codes.”

After the war, Washington declared that intelligence was key to victory, Cilluffo said, adding that that also was true for both world wars as well.

It was after the World War II that some people realized they were in a unique job that required skills no one else had, said David Hatch, the NSA’s historian, who joined the agency as an analyst decades ago. As the NSA grew, its director realized the agency needed a more formalized training and education program for employees as disparate as soldiers not long out of high school and scholars with multiple doctorates.

They also need classes for people who are just joining the shadowy agency: NSA 101.

In the early days, there were just eight curricula. Analysts used a pencil, a sheet of paper, and a simple straight-edged tool with three holes — big circle, smaller circle, rectangle — to diagram communication networks.

The “textbooks” were heavy binders with type-written or hand-written pages on radio wave propagation, signal analysis, or languages.

The school was an early leader in computer technology, Hatch said, most of which is now obsolete.

Legendary (to insiders) cryptologists taught classes, like the man who had been a world-famous flute player until WWII made his hobby — ciphers, codes — critically important. Lambros Callimahos worked hard at being eccentric, Hatch said, wearing a beret and a Paris policeman’s cape, taking a proper British tea, encouraging his students to use snuff. He made up an entire mythical country, complete with its own history, politics, language, and dozens of cryptosystems the students would have to crack. He had a portrait painted of the prime minister — who just happened to resemble Callimahos, in a resplendent military uniform. He would ask questions such as: “What is the cryptological meaning of December 16th?”

The class was incredibly difficult. A friend of Hatch’s once told him if he dropped a pencil he didn’t dare pick it up or he would have missed three cryptosystems.

Callimahos understood how serious the mission is, Hatch said. “He also knew a lot of what we do can be fun.”

Former students talked about how the classes didn’t just teach them new skills; they learned entirely new ways to think. One described his head literally throbbing by the end of the day.

The National Cryptologic School has always had to be nimble, adapting to the demands of the mission from the Cold War to Vietnam to tensions in Central America in the early 1980s — that’s when Reinsfelder was brought in to launch the school’s Spanish-language program — to the fall of the Berlin Wall to 9/11 to ISIS. Now the changes happen much more quickly.

In 2006, while the school had information technology classes, there was nothing there called “cyber.” Now it has a separate college focused on cyber security and cyber operations.

School leaders ensured that most of their more than 1,300 courses can be taught not only at their satellite campuses but online worldwide through secure connections.

They began regular meetings with their youngest employees, James Aldrich, the school’s deputy commandant, said, because they realized students were learning in constantly evolving ways. Sometimes they were learning on apps that didn’t exist a week ago.

And they have to keep thinking ahead. The school formed a partnership with Dakota State University so that employees, often young service members who joined the military straight out of high school, could earn significant academic credit toward a college degree in cyber operations. (Some classes at the National Cryptologic School have transferable academic credits, so students can continue on to degrees elsewhere. The school has been accredited by the Council on Occupational Education for 25 years; some courses are certified by the American Council on Education.)

The school works with colleges and schools across the country to encourage language programs in areas of critical need, such as Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Farsi, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Korean. That’s how Reinsfelder found himself in a first-grade classroom in Delaware one day, listening to small children speaking Mandarin.

The NSA wants to ensure young students are getting science, technology, engineering and math skills; at a camp in California this summer, one of dozens of camps across the country, girls from low-income communities “went home with little Raspberry Pis, a $65 computer that actually works,” Reinsfelder said. They also learned how to hack drones.

And classes go on, of course, at the National Cryptologic School’s headquarters in Maryland, an old warehouse converted into an academic building with a bland uniformity inside (and an incongruous fountain out front, with a plastic duck bobbing along through the splashing water.)

One day this week, men and women in camouflage uniforms and civilian clothes passed through security, striding purposefully down identical corridors with identical gray doors.


It’s possible. It might even be probable. But that’s on a need-to-know basis.

This article was written by Susan Svrluga from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter

Can a Degree Influence Your Entrepreneurial Vision?

Interview with Dr. Cassandra Shaw and Wes O’Donnell
Dr. Cassandra Shaw is the Program Director for Entrepreneurship at American Military University.
Wes O’Donnell is an American Military University Alumnus.

Does an education truly influence your business goals? According to entrepreneur Wes O’Donnell, it does. After receiving his MBA from AMU he took his entrepreneurial vision to the next level.

In this podcast, Dr. Shaw and Wes discuss network support, finding motivation along the entrepreneurial journey, and business lessons that are a necessity when building a business. Wes believes that education gives you the roadmap needed for executing your ideas, and it provides you with the tools that you’ll needin order to get from ideation to execution.

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Posted in Education Options

Civilian Transition Struggles – How to Find Your Balance

military-ed-transitionBy Stephanie Nukis
Alumna at American Military University

Recently I decided to leave active duty after 13 years and transitioned to being a civilian. In the course of this decision, everyone talked about financial planning and stability as well as how to get my next job. I was set, I was ready, and I was confident that I could handle the change.

As it turns out, I wasn’t nearly as prepared as I thought.

I was given numerous resources for the various expected changes, but in the course of all the conversations and transitioning seminars there were many things that never came up. No one ever mentioned I would need to adjust how I manage my time, or the steps I would need to take to accomplish the normal activities of my life.

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Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter, Online Learning

Student Profile: Helping Our Heroes

American Military University Alumnus, Jason McClaren

American Military University Alumnus, Jason McClaren

Interview with AMU Alumnus, Jason McClaren

The following profile is the fourth in a series of student profiles of our students and alumni at the university.

Job title: Manager, Safety and Emergency Management, Brazosport Regional Health System

Degree earned: M.A, Emergency and Disaster Management, 2014, and B.S., Fire Science Management, 2011, American Military University

What led you to choose a master’s in emergency and disaster management?

My goal as a child was to do 20 years in the Air Force, retire, and teach JROTC, but after seven years as an Air Force firefighter that was cut short due to a death in my family. The death required me to relocate to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where there were no positions available in my career field at any of the nearby bases. At that point, I had a choice to start at the bottom of a municipal fire department and work my way back up the ladder or pursue my education. I chose the latter, getting my bachelor’s degree in fire science. While working on that, new career opportunities were opening up. I discovered the field of emergency management, and it fit great with my personality and my ideas on how I wanted to be involved with emergency response for the future of my career.

Tell us about your new role.

My position as an emergency manager and safety officer at a hospital is similar to that of a city or other agency emergency manager. I direct the response to disasters and oversee crisis management in the hospital system. As you can imagine, the role has a great deal of responsibility. Any kind of natural disaster or emergency situation could occur, such as a hurricane, a flood, a hazardous material spill, or even a hostage situation.

To ensure we are ready for these types of scenarios, I am always learning and keeping up on new developments in the industry. This requires me to attend workshops, conferences, and networking throughout the community. Emergency management is a team effort, and we usually rely on assistance from other agencies if an incident gets too large. I often meet with local public safety officials, schools, and local industry emergency response teams for collaboration.

One of my favorite things is implementing emergency preparedness training for the hospital staff and local community in order to disseminate information for what to do during an emergency. We often attend community events and display our 15-bed mobile medical unit, similar to a modern-day M.A.S.H. facility.

Has education always been a priority?

I honestly have to say no. Being in the military made it rough to take any kind of college courses, especially since I worked 24 hours on and 24 off. So I couldn’t attend courses at a traditional campus on a normal Monday – Friday college schedule. There was a lot of red tape and guidelines on how many courses you could take at a time. Then there was being a firefighter; you are always learning and required to participate in continuing education. I was also a hazardous materials instructor, so my time was constantly stretched thin. I thought I had several years until I had to get my degree, and at that time I needed to focus on getting more fire certifications to further my military career.

After I had separated, I visited a friend of mine who was in school to be an Air Force navigator. I saw an AMU diploma on the wall of his house and started asking how he went about getting through school and active duty. After we talked, I got home and started to research the university, and I compared it to other schools with similar programs. Once I got started, I thoroughly enjoyed it and was planning to stop after my bachelor’s.

Just before I finished my bachelor’s, I started working at a brick-and-mortar university in Dallas. My supervisor there was a big advocate of furthering your education and gave me great opportunities to work on my education while holding a full-time job, so there was no excuse not to work on my master’s. Before I left there, he urged me to start working on my Juris Doctorate, but now that I am in a 24/7 position my wife may kill me if I try to do a doctorate program. Just kidding…not really.

How do you use what you learned from your program in your current position?              

As I stated earlier, in my current position you must be very knowledgeable in the field of emergency management and must always maintain a thorough knowledge of federal, state, and local emergency- related regulations. In addition, I must be able to gather information needed to write emergency preparedness plans and to be able to carry out those plans. This involves ordering evacuations and opening shelters, as well as ensuring that special needs programs are carried out.

Much of the communication, collaboration, and instructional materials require in-depth writing and analysis. I also conduct surveys to address emergency needs and develop mitigation techniques. All of these tasks are things that I perfected and mastered during the course of my studies.

Of course, I knew how to research regulations and write emergency plans as a career firefighter. In this position, I have to do that but also be able to draft reports that can be 40-50 pages long and will be reviewed by the CEO, hospital board, and/or city and county officials. It is imperative that these documents read well and have statistics to verify my data.

Was Heroes in Action created while you were attending classes at AMU?

Yes! Heroes in Action was founded on September 11, 2013 and registered in March of 2014. I didn’t finish my master’s until May of 2014. Heroes in Action is an all-volunteer nonprofit that engages in community projects and events for the benefit of police officers, firefighters, and veterans.

Have you seen a lot of positive growth in this area since its inception?

We have seen a good deal of growth, even though we are a 100 percent volunteer organization. We have held a 5K run and a stair-climb fitness event to raise funds for other police, firefighter/EMS, and veteran organizations.

We have also received our first donation to fund a future Science, Technology, Engineering and Math scholarship for applicants who are related to one of those public safety or military stakeholders. Our goal is to have an Operations Manager in each state by 2025 and hold one of our events in each state. More information can be found at

How would you advise someone to give back to their community?

I would say find something you enjoy doing and work with an organization that does that. Don’t volunteer at Habitat for Humanity if you don’t enjoy sweating and getting dirty. I enjoy emergency management and event planning is not much different than emergency management.

The difference in an event and an emergency is that one is planned and one isn’t. We use many of the same planning processes and situational elements in both. The short version is that most nonprofit organizations run like small businesses (or large business depending on the organization). They can use your skills somewhere. If they balk at that, then you may want to look at another organization. I look at it this way: If you wouldn’t enjoy doing it while being paid, why would you enjoy doing it as a volunteer?

Volunteering is also a good opportunity to use and develop skills while attending school. You can usually set your own hours, and you normally do the same job a paid staff member would do. I volunteered with the Texas Department of Emergency Management during my graduate studies to help with my thesis research!

What was your favorite thing about online education?

There are many reasons, but I always go back to the flexibility. As mentioned earlier, it would have been nearly impossible to attend a brick-and-mortar institution on my schedule and with my location in the Dallas area. There were few schools that offered fire science programs, and the only school with an emergency management program was an hour and a half each way from my house. Attending a two- or three-day class every week would have been brutal. I also appreciated the ability to hold a course. I had an issue pop up in my personal life that required me to hold all my classes for two months. Luckily, that was an option at AMU, and I didn’t have to drop the courses and start over.

What do you like to do in your free time?  

In my free time, I like to go to the beach, play with my dogs, a Weimaraner and Shepherd Chow. I enjoy fishing and volunteering with my church audio/video broadcast team.

Online education isn’t a one size fits all, but it’s a great opportunity for those looking to increase their knowledge in current areas of expertise, or to look at new avenues for growth. Our student profile series will give a face and personality to our dedicated online learners at the university. Interested in learning more about your online education options? Explore our schools and programs at AMU.

Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter, Online Learning

Picking Your Professor: When You Should Branch Out

picking-professorsBy Dr. Randall Cuthbert
Associate Professor, Emergency & Disaster Management at American Public University

A student reminded me recently that she had taken eight of her 12 master’s courses from me. Although it’s flattering when a student does that, it’s really not a good idea for a couple of reasons.

First, if a student took every course from me, at the end of the program they would know less than I do—there’s no way to put everything I know about any subject into a classroom. I’m not bragging, that’s just transmission loss—an unavoidable feature of communication.

However, taking courses from as wide a variety of instructors as possible brings the knowledge from each into your knowledge base. The wisdom becomes uniquely your own and is greater than the sum of the parts. That’s a successful use of instructor resources.

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Posted in Education Options, Online Learning, Scholar's Desk

What is the Value of a College Education to Working Adults?

working-adult-college-studentBy Guy Williams
Alumnus at American Public University

What is the value of a college education, especially to working adults? I asked myself this question several times and heard the same question echoed by my peers, students, faculty members, politicians, newscasters, and several prospective employers.

Then there are deeper questions around topics such as whether there is a way to quantify the value of a college education or whether traditional brick and mortar school degrees carry more weight than online schools. While the list of questions appears endless, I believe a few truisms exist about college degrees earned at any age.

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Posted in Editor's Pick, Education Options, Online Learning

Why Being Good at Language Arts Means That You Can Do Math

language-arts-math-literateBy Grammarly
Special to Online Learning Tips

“Math class is tough!” said Mattel’s controversial and later recalled Teen Talk Barbie in the early 1990s. Appalled, women’s organizations criticized Teen Talk Barbie for delivering a message that math should be difficult for young girls. This oversight by Mattel was a symptom of what would become a national conversation, which led to a platform for education reform in the 2000s. Our current national educational policy aims to increase the number of qualified candidates for highly technical positions and shrink the educational gaps of college graduates entering the workforce. Educational reformers, ed-tech startups, and nonprofits have focused on educating the population in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). But there’s a simple answer to the question ‘How do I become better at math?’ which might surprise you: become better at reading.

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Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter


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