Thursday, October 24, 2013

From military to college, commitment knows no bounds

COMMITTED STUDENT: Sergeant Stephen
Cowperthwait is dedicated to earning his
college degree in Information Technology
It’s a great honor for us that we’re able to support our active military members and veterans in earning their college degrees. Today we’d like to introduce one of them to you -- Sergeant Stephen Cowperthwait. Along with being a former member of the Marine Corps, a current member of the National Guard, and an Information Systems Analyst with the U.S. Army, he is also the seventh recipient of the Peirce College/Pennsylvania National Guard Scholarship. We learned more about Stephen’s story when we interviewed him for our blog. Here’s what he told us.

Stephen grew up in Susquehanna, Pa., a small suburban town outside of Scranton. After graduating high school, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Management from Penn State University. He got a taste of several different business experiences through internships, including ones at the school newspaper, career development services, and Walmart.

However, upon graduation, he was unsure where he wanted to hone his business focus. But he also recognized that he could strengthen his skills through joining the military, and felt the Marine Corps was a perfect fit. So he made the decision to serve in the Corps for the next four years.

His time in the Marine Corps was well spent, as he was able to apply lessons learned through his service to his civilian management positions after he finished serving. He spent the next 20 years in management in various industries, including finance, logistics, beverage, and the mortgage business.

But five years ago, he decided he wanted to make a career change. He was watching the IT industry rapidly expand, and recognized the opportunities and job security the field could provide him.

Information technology is a field with a skillset that’s going to be in demand for the next 10-15 years, and it’s always changing and growing,” said Stephen. “It’s also very interesting because you’re looking at different ways to solve technological issues that companies have. That’s why I decided I wanted to get into this industry.”

To prepare for a job in IT, Stephen participated in the National Guard’s military occupational specialty training. But about a year and a half ago, he decided that he wanted to take his education a step further and return to school to earn his college degree in Information Technology.

“If you’re going go into the Information Technology field, you really need to narrow your education down and get into something specific,” said Stephen. “So one of the reasons I was attracted to Peirce College was the specific major that I’m enrolled in.”

Indeed, this focus was an important factor in Stephen’s decision. “I looked at different schools for about a year and a half before deciding on Peirce,” said Stephen. “The larger schools didn’t seem to have what I needed. It seemed like many of them concentrated on computer science, which is great, but I needed a focused information technology program. I just didn’t really see the flexibility that I needed as a student from the larger schools. Peirce had the program I needed, and as a bonus, offers specific certifications that correspond with its courses. That’s something employers definitely look at.”

Stephen is currently enrolled in our Information Technology program with a concentration in Network Administration and Security. He believes a concentration in Networking will provide him with a solid foundation of the technical skills needed to succeed in an industry where the only constant is change. He takes his classes online part time, works full time, and serves in the National Guard.

To help finance his schooling, Stephen is using the Peirce College/Pennsylvania National Guard Scholarship, which he won in September of this year. “For me, winning this scholarship means I can concentrate more on my academics and not really have to worry about my finances,” said Stephen. “It’s one of those things where if you don’t apply for it, you have no chance of winning.”

Stephen would like to finish his program in two years, and values Peirce’s flexible offerings, accelerated classes, and support services to help him earn his degree. “I know Peirce has an invested interest in my doing well. And I feel that the curriculum has been tailored toward my work schedule and my other responsibilities that I have at the same time. My advisor, Denise, works specifically with military members, so she’s very knowledgeable about what requirements I need to meet academically to complete my degree program.”

But for him, it all boils down to achieving his goal – just like his training in the military has taught him. “I think you have to put forth the same level of commitment toward your education that you do with your work in the military. As long as you do that, you’ll be successful.”

He also has some words of wisdom to share with other military members about earning their college degree. “My advice to military members is two-fold. One – if you don’t have an education and you see an opportunity to earn a scholarship, apply for it and go after it. Two -- use your military benefits to earn your college degree. You’ve earned it!”

Congratulations, Stephen! Good luck in your classes at Peirce!