Tag Archive | "online education"

Walking for the Holidays and Public Health Benefits

walk-during-holidays-public-healthBy Dr. Samer Koutoubi
Program Director, Public Health at American Public University

As you sit down to enjoy the festivities of  Thanksgiving Day, and the upcoming holiday season family get-togethers, parties, and shopping, you may experience difficulties maintaining a normal exercise schedule and training regimen. Don’t let the holidays take over, start planning a workout a schedule in advance to maintain your overall health for the holidays.

Did you know that you can burn a lot of calories while walking? An average person who weighs 180 pounds can burn 100 calories per mile while walking. So let’s walk off the weight during the holidays! Also, eating healthy and burning calories can help you lose weight and protect you against chronic diseases. Make a game of it. See how many calories you can burn during your daily activities around the house. For online students, this is a great habit to keep; especially during intense weeks of nothing by studying and sitting in front of the computer. Making the time to get up and move are vital to your health.

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The Positive Aspects of Student Loan Debt

positive-impact-student-loansBy Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

Whether you hear presidential candidates speaking on it, read it in the newspaper, or see it on the news, student loan debt seems to be an insurmountable problem with no solution and no positive consequences. While the total student loan debt in this country is absolutely absurd, that does not necessarily mean that student loan debt is completely negative. In fact, there are a handful of good things that come out of student loan debt, and some of these benefits are described below:

  1. Loan debt can be viewed as an investment in human capital.
    The government provides money to college students in hopes that they will use that money to earn a degree and become a valuable member of society. There is no denying that individuals with a college degree earn more money on average than an individual without one. Even though interest rates can be high and tuition costs can be excessive, many college students end up earning a degree that pays off in the long run. The ultimate hope of the Department of Education is that every individual that starts college has that same outcome.
  2. Loan debt helps fund other aid-based programs.
    The Pell Grant, one of the best forms of Federal Student Aid (FSA), is funded through the interest received on student loans. The Pell Grant is given to financially-needy students, and it is not required to be paid back. While the Pell Grant may not help all students, it does help those that otherwise may not have a chance to go to college.
  3. For individual students with loan debt, they can use it as a vehicle to build credit and boost their credit score.
    Young people have to start somewhere when it comes to building credit, and taking out school loans (and paying them back in a timely manner) is a great way to show creditors you are financially responsible. Contrary to popular belief, manageable student loan debt may actually aid you when it comes time to buy a house, car, or other large purchase. For example, some of the First-Time Home Buyer loans require individuals to have at least three open lines of credit (for at least a year) to prove they are capable of handling debt.

Rising student loan debt is still a major problem in this country. However, the bigger problem lies with irresponsible borrowing, non-completers, and students not positioning themselves for gainful employment. Managing your student loan debt is actually a great way to build credit, and it hopefully resulted in a college degree that can be put to use immediately. It may be much easier said than done, but having student loan debt does not have to be a black cloud over your head; in fact, it can reap you (and the economy) major benefits.

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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 www.goheroes.org.

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.

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Student Profile: Intelligence Studies Student to Cyber Threat Professional

American Military University Alumnus, Eric Sifford

American Military University Alumnus, Eric Sifford

Interview with AMU Alumnus, Eric Sifford

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

Job title: Vice President, Information Security Engineering, Bank of America

Degree earned: B.A., Intelligence Studies, 2013, American Military University

What have you been up to since earning your degree at AMU?

Since earning my degree with AMU in 2013, I PCSed to Fort Gordon, Georgia, where I was assigned as a Counterintelligence Cyber Collection Technician. I was deployed back to the Middle East in late 2014 in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, and I obtained two additional certifications: Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (ISSEP) and Professional Certified Investigator (PCI). In August 2015, I began the transition to leave for retirement from the Army, and in September 2015, I began working for Bank of America as an Information Security Engineering Specialist at their Corporate Headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What led you to choose a bachelor’s in intelligence? Was it based on passion or a specific career goal?

I chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in intelligence from AMU because furthering my development and professional standing as an Intelligence Officer was extremely important to me. I went with AMU because they’re well-respected as an academic leader in the intelligence field.

Tell us about your new role.

In my current role with Bank of America, my primary responsibility is coordination of Cyber Threat Exercises for different organizations within the bank.

Is there anything you use from your degree at AMU that you use in your current career?

The study and practical application of structured analytic techniques during my studies at AMU significantly enhanced my ability to think and to innovate in a systematic manner. This ability has already served me exceedingly well even during my short time in my new career.

Is there a particular class or professor that stood out?

My INTL498 class (Senior Seminar in Intelligence Studies), as taught by Professor Larry Dietz, definitely stood out to me during my attendance at AMU. Professor Dietz was a very demanding instructor, and I had to perform at my highest level in his class – excuses weren’t allowed. I think having Professor Dietz for my capstone course in intelligence studies was a fitting confidence boost and conclusion for my studies at AMU.

What’s the biggest cyber security threat facing the U.S. currently? What measures are being put into place to combat it?

The biggest cyber security threat facing the U.S. today is the hybrid cyber threat posed by the collaboration of nation-state actors and international organized crime. Nation states are able to provide virtually unlimited resources, and internationally organized criminal organizations often have access to the highest levels of cyber expertise. The best countermeasure to this cyber security threat, as with any other type of threat, is rigorous, multi-disciplined intelligence collection and analysis.

How did your studies at American Military University prepare you for your success in your career?

Completing my online degree with AMU set me up incredibly well for success. The habits that enabled me to be successful at AMU are exactly the soft skills that I need to be successful in my career: initiative, creativity, self-discipline, good written communication skills, and the ability to operate independently and collaborate remotely with others.

Has education always been a priority? Has your life in the military created any road blocks?

Ever since my time in Mr. Jerry Peck’s science classes during my high school years, I have always wanted to achieve academic success. Mr. Peck inspired me to value discipline, dedication, and the relentless search for truth. Because of his influence, education became a priority for me. Although my life in the military did not facilitate my attendance at a brick-and-mortar school, it did inspire me toward self-discipline and excellence.

How are you applying your intelligence studies knowledge in your current role?

Achieving a degree in intelligence studies with AMU granted me the opportunity to train my mind in the rigors of intelligence analysis and critical thinking. Those skillsets provide a unique advantage in any endeavor, but are  especially applicable in my current role.

What is a key piece of advice you would pass on to someone new to online education?

To anyone new to online education, I would tell them to approach it with the enthusiasm it deserves. It is a fantastic opportunity! Be disciplined in your classes, enjoy getting to know your instructor and your fellow students, and be extra diligent in keeping track of all your deliverables and deadlines.

What is your favorite thing about online learning?

Of the many things I enjoyed about online learning, I think my favorite was the unique feeling I got from knowing my computer had become my portal to gaining knowledge, achieving my academic dreams, and interacting with people whom I would otherwise never have been able to meet.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, studying the Bible, trading on the Foreign Exchange market, browsing the Internet, and constantly learning from as many opportunities as I can.

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.

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Students Think They're Ready For The Real World; Employers, Not So Much

college-to-career-prepBy Capital Flows

Many of today’s college students are stunningly ill-prepared for the professional world. What’s worse, they don’t even realize it.

A survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities finds that about 70% of college students think they possess the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Employers, on the other hand, are far less optimistic. Less than a third think newly minted college grads are ready for the real world.

There’s good reason for this divide. Employers increasingly value skills that often aren’t taught on the average college campus. And most students are completely unaware of employer demands because they fail to plan for life outside the academic bubble.

Many employers have stopped putting so much stock in academic achievements alone

Colleges need to repair this disconnect. The global job market is only getting more competitive. Faculty and administrators must make sure students develop the aptitudes that can actually secure them long-term, satisfying employment.

Consider soft skills like teamwork and collaboration. While 60% of college students think they excel here, just 40% of employers agree. When it comes to the quality and speed of their decision-making, student confidence is twice as high as employers’.

At the same time, many employers have stopped putting so much stock in academic achievements alone. In fact, a recent survey from the research firm Millennial Branding found that only 2% of employers consider GPA the most important factor when evaluating job applications.

These discrepancies are exacerbated by the fact that many students fail to take advantage of the opportunities provided by school administrators to acquire professional skills.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve student career readiness.

Colleges can adjust their curricula to better simulate real-world working conditions

For starters, colleges can adjust their curricula to better simulate real-world working conditions. For example, most jobs don’t require the sort of sustained, independent work it takes to finish a term paper; collaboration is quite common. That’s why Purdue University lends some of its business students out to local small businesses to act as consultants. Professors in all academic programs should look for similar opportunities.

Leadership matters, too. Only micromanagers provide employees with minute-by-minute orders. At most offices, workers are expected to identify employer needs on their own, adapt accordingly, and guide colleagues when appropriate. Given that, American University has launched a public affairs leadership program, which challenges students to identify a social ill and try to resolve it.

Career service programs also have a role to play in prepping students for life after college. Administrators should focus on increasing the number of internships available, expanding the variety of participating employers, and allowing students to accrue credit from all manner of part-time professional opportunities.

Notably, Alma College in Michigan has installed a forward-looking careers services program that provides students $2,500 grants toward off-campus internships, fellowships or research.

Narrowing the gap between what the average student learns and what the average employer demands

Here at New York Institute of Technology, we provide extensive professional development opportunities. And the skills our students acquire translate into real job opportunities. Fully 87% of our graduates are employed in their chosen field within six months of commencement. Nationally, only around 55% of college grads secure full-time jobs before the six-month mark.

Most recently, we started an urban administration course that introduces students to the inner-workings of city governments and non-profits through traditional classroom instruction–and then empowers them to see those dynamics first-hand with a local community service project. This program isn’t simply aimed at exposing students to these fields. It also actively cultivates the problem-solving skills relevant employers demand.

American institutions of higher education need to narrow the gap between what the average student learns and what the average employer demands. If not, future generations of graduates are going to find themselves locked out of the job market and deprived of the chance to find meaning and purpose in work.

Watch on Forbes:

This article was written by Capital Flows from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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4 Debt Management Tips for Active Students

debt-management-tips_webBy Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS

Unfortunately, living in debt is a common scenario for many people these days. It is nearly impossible to pay for large purchases like a house, car, and an education up front. For some, taking out loans is the best way to make those purchases happen. Just because you have outstanding debts does not mean you cannot attend college, as there are tips and tricks to help you successfully manage all of your debts while attending school.

Here are some of my tips for managing debt while attending school:

  1. Attack your smallest debts first.
    For example, if you have a mortgage, car loan, pending school loans, and a credit card bill, your credit card bill will probably be the smallest of the four. Try to pay that off faster than the other loans. Allocate any extra money you may have to paying off the credit card, and once that is completely paid off you can attack the next smallest debt. This will make paying your school loans more manageable.
  2. Try to find alternative ways to pay for college, such as scholarships and grants.
    There are many scholarships available, but they have to be found. Consult with your financial aid advisor at your school for some resources and guidance. If you are eligible for the Pell Grant, you should absolutely take advantage of it because it does not need to be paid back at a later date.
  3. Keep in mind that student loans have different options than other loans.
    It is possible to defer payments through forbearance. It is also possible to be set up with a manageable payment plan, such as an Income-Based Repayment plan. While taking out more loans than you can handle should not be encouraged, remember that student loans are somewhat different from other loans. Also, it is hard to place a price on education, so if you are successful in college your reward should quickly outweigh the debt incurred.
  4. Try to consolidate similar loans into one larger loan if possible.
    This works especially well for school loans. If you can consolidate your school loans into one larger loan, you will only have to make a payment to one or two servicers per month. While it will not really save you any money, it does have a psychological advantage because you will get less individual bills every month.

Living in debt is stressful, but it is also commonplace in today’s world. Most adults have some debt that they are responsible for, and there are many that have multiple debts. This does not mean that you should hold off on your educational pursuits. Fiscally responsible individuals pay off their debts, and using some of the above tips and tricks may make paying off your debts a little more manageable.

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Social Engagement Options for the Online Learner


AMU mascot, Valor (left) and APU mascot, Jake (right).

Vlog with Cindy Aitken
Senior Manager, Community Engagement at American Public University

Balancing your lifelong goals with your work and family responsibilities means exploring every possibility, and online education provides an ideal solution for thousands of working adults worldwide. And while you’re using your computer or mobile device to interact daily in the virtual classroom, the fact is, the online learning model and feeling like you’re part of a tangible community aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, when you join a quality online university, you become a part of a community of learners that may include your professor down the street to a classmate on the other side of the world.

At APU and AMU, there are a number of programs designed to keep students connected and engaged with their university community. In this vlog, Cindy shares her insights on the community events at the university, the Ambassador Program, university social channels, and she talks about school spirit in the online environment.

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Suggestions for Success: What to Know Before You Begin Your Program

success-tips-online-learnersBy Melanie Dougherty
Academic Advisor at American Public University

Congratulations! You’ve taken a big step in starting your education. Whether you’re pursuing an associate, bachelor’s, or a master’s degree, I want to tell you what an exciting journey you have ahead of you. Are you scratching your head wondering where to begin? Well, don’t! Here are some suggestions for starting out in your degree program.

First, you need to invest in yourself. As you prepare to embark on this new journey, be prepared to encounter new ideas and new challenges. Take this time to discover new passions, to learn more about yourself, and to prepare for a future doing something that you love. Don’t jump into this program without knowing what you want to get out of it! You should write down some small goals that you want to achieve at different points in your program and in your life. Seeing these goals written out can remind you of how to invest in yourself both academically and personally.

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