Public 4-Year Schools

TESU Students Stationed Overseas Bring a Different Perspective

Thomas Edison State University students Morgan Rutland and Christopher Nester’s learning experiences are different than most.

Rutland, an active-duty U.S. Air Force contracting officer and Nester, a U.S. Air Force veteran, are both stationed in Southwest Asia, in separate locations, for very different reasons. However, both are set out to accomplish one common goal: to complete their college degrees.

Rutland, currently on active duty and deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, is working toward her bachelor’s degree in psychology while she is employed on base in a contracting role. This role allows Rutland responsibility for all purchases made for the base ranging from simple commodities to service and construction orders.

Prior to enrolling at the University, Rutland dabbled in higher education for a few years before deciding to enlist in the Air Force.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do while I was in school, I just knew I wanted to do it all,” she said. “I wanted to save the world. Over time school started to get expensive, so I made the decision to save the world another way and joined the military.”

Now on her second deployment, Rutland decided along the way that she needed to return to complete her degree. After taking time to evaluate her interests, she set her sights on a psychology degree. “While I still have at least eight and a half years left of service in the Air Force, I have narrowed my options to two choices: an elementary school teacher or work in military family advocacy,” she explained.

With her physical location in a constant state of flux, Rutland credits her ability to complete her degree with the University online as the reason she is able to maintain her educational motivation.

“Although this is only my second deployment, I have still been able to take classes during our busy end of fiscal year and during numerous temporary duty assignments where I have had to report to other bases for weeks at a time,” she said. “With the flexibility the program affords me, I will be able to pick up where I left off when I am soon reassigned and work to complete my two final classes.”

Not far from Rutland, in the Middle Eastern region of Southwest Asia, U.S. Air Force and National Guard veteran, and University student, Christopher Nester is no stranger to life abroad.

Having lived in various locations outside the U.S. since January 2010, Nester’s online courses have allowed him to pursue his degree in a manner that otherwise would not be available to him.

“Being in the Middle East means I have very little downtime and the internet connections are often quite poor,” he explained. “I’m fortunate enough to have a career that allows me to perform my course work while I’m on the job. As a military information technology contractor, my experience is very unique, especially given my specific field. If I have trouble accessing course material at work, I am able to utilize commercial internet to download my course work so I can study and complete assignments.”

For Nester, who is working toward his Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology (BSAST) degree in electronic systems engineering technology, his ability to begin his courses each month, as opposed to waiting for seasonal semesters to start, has been a notable driving force to keep his degree completion at a steady pace.

“Without that kind of flexibility, I know that I would not have been able to make as much progress toward my degree as I have with Thomas Edison,” he said.

While living abroad for the past seven years, Nester has been employed as a satellite communications technician, a military contract position that varies in location and scope of responsibility depending on the job. His current contract has him serving as a subject matter expert on various satellite communications systems that provide internet connections to various agencies, companies and militaries around the world, usually in remote locations or harsh environments.

On choosing his program of study, Nester was quick to point out that when comparing institutions, his interest was struck by the University’s curriculum.
“With Thomas Edison’s bachelor’s degree in electronics systems engineering technology being ABET (Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET) accredited, the program really stood out to me,” he said. “Coupled with the University’s ease in handling my Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and GI Bill benefits in order for me to complete my degree, I’ve found that the institution has been very accommodating and understanding of me as a working professional, particularly one who is physically located so far at a distance.”