Army fellowship program sees its first Penn State graduates
Army Sgt. Major Tim Magee spent the past year hitting the books and writing papers. It’s been a different experience from the past 27 years he spent as an audio/video repair technician for the Army, including deployments to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
Magee, along with 18 other sergeants major, is in the first class of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, an initiative the Army created to improve the teaching skills of its highest-level enlisted soldiers. The group of 19 sergeants has been stationed at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy since August 2015 completing the master’s degree in lifelong learning and adult education online through Penn State World Campus.
Magee and the 18 other fellows will graduate on Saturday, Aug. 13, and proceed to the next phase of the program – teaching for three years in the Sergeants Major Course, which prepares the military’s next generation of leaders with the skills they need on and off the battlefield.
“I want to use technology to help influence the learning of the students,” Magee said. “I have some great ideas I’ve learned through my distance education experience through Penn State that I think would be beneficial to the students I’m getting ready to instruct.”
The fellows will be recognized at a ceremony on base at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Aug. 22. A new group of fellows will also arrive on base to begin the program.
The degree program was offered in a blended format: An instructor from Penn State’s College of Education visited at the beginning of each semester for orientation, and then the students completed the courses online. For their final project, they wrote a paper.
Magee came into the program with a master’s degree in management from a college on base, and he had never been in an online learning or distance education environment. He ended up thriving and is set to graduate with a near-perfect grade-point average.
It became clearer how well he was learning when he and his fellow classmates got together in December last year to talk about their classes.
“When we sat down as a group and just started talking, I didn’t think I learned anything,” he said. “But then I was rattling off this and that -- I was shocked at how much I had retained and learned.”
Another fellow, Army Sgt. Major Scot Cates, saw the program as a way to give back to the military. As a military police officer for more than 25 years, he brought perspectives that his professors and students in his classes could learn from.
“The professors are going to learn more by being exposed to people that are from different cultures and organizations throughout the U.S., and they can bring that to the classrooms,” Cates said. “It reminds me of the Army. We don’t leave people in one spot forever because if they only know what’s there, they’re not broadened.”
Army Sgt. Major Pedro Quiñones saw the program as a resume-builder for when he retires from the military in a few years. He has worked as a musician in the Army since 1989 and played in and managed ceremonies and performances for heads of state all over the world.
He said the degree program was challenging and rigorous, and he highly recommends it to his fellow sergeants major.
“When I started saying I got accepted into Penn State for this degree, one of the people at my unit was like, ‘Sergeant Major, that is awesome. You’re going to have a great time. This is a great university,’” Quiñones said. “So, I started looking at Penn State more. Now I see why.”
Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about services and resources available to military students.
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