Graduate, Master of Public Administration
Rebecca Sechrist is a single mom of three who never thought she could earn a master’s degree. Yet, she reached that goal in 2010, completing her Master’s Degree in Public Administration online from American Military University, with a concentration in security management.
“I was going to pursue a second bachelor’s degree, because I was too scared to go for a master’s,” she says.
A friend referred her to American Military University’s online master’s program, boasting about its professors and courses – both relevant to today’s complex world.
“I researched AMU and saw it was founded by military personnel and had instructors with prior military service who were now working in government positions,” she says. “I enrolled and absolutely loved it.”
She says the public administration degree combines all of her interests – finance, management, planning and more -- and offers many job opportunities in the public and private sector.
Like many adult learners, Sechrist has had detours and challenges along the way. She had earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 2002 from a traditional university. Her goal at the time was to be an advocate for children. Her own three children were very young then. She took night and summer classes, planning her study time around their needs and her obligations to the Army National Guard. She also was driving a school bus for extra income.
After her degree, Sechrist focused on her responsibilities to her children.
“As a single mom, I put my career goals on the back burner,” she says.
In 2007, Sechrist was awarded service-connected disability for an injury sustained during Reserve duty. She had joined the Reserve in 1992, while still in high school – a family tradition – and served until 2001.
“With this award I was given the opportunity to continue my education, something I thought I would not be able to do,” Sechrist says.
She says AMU has been supportive from the beginning.
“It was very easy to get information. There was no pushing or pulling to get what you needed,” she says.
She originally enrolled in four courses, all in the eight-week format, thinking a master’s work load was similar to a bachelor’s degree. Her student advisor contacted her immediately to discuss the demanding requirements. Sechrist decided to start off with two classes. She was glad she did, admitting the load might have been enough to make her drop out.
The online format fit her life in many ways. Sechrist had been working as an employment counselor and studied on her lunch hour. She also studies when her children study in the evening, while on vacation, and even at Cub Scout meetings.
Sechrist describes her online classroom as a tight-knit community to whom she can relate. She especially likes the introduction each classmate provides at the beginning of the course, as well as the in-depth online discussions.
“I love that aspect. You’re not going to miss out on any information like you would in a traditional classroom, where you would have to raise your hand and wait your turn,” she says. She has even connected with fellow classmates outside the online classroom, in Facebook.
Sechrist says she could have faced a setback with her studies in August of 2008, but AMU’s support helped her stay on track. She had been experiencing severe headaches and other symptoms – and was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. She had similar symptoms 10 years ago, but was misdiagnosed. She underwent “Gamma Knife” surgery in October 2008, where beams of gamma radiation were targeted at the tumor. The tumor has since showed no change, but Sechrist says she has adapted to her symptoms.
“I have just been going about my life,” she says. “It’s just another bump in the road.”
Sechrist recently began her last master’s class – and was also recently laid off. Her position was eliminated due to the economy. Sechrist’s challenges continue to be no match for her perseverance.
“I look at this period of unemployment as a gift to concentrate on my final comprehensive exam,” she says.
She looks forward to using her degree, hoping to earn a position with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, giving back to those who have helped her so much. She will be the first in her family to earn a master’s degree. She is especially proud of what she is teaching her children.
“My kids think it’s exciting that mommy has more homework than they do and they look up to me in a new light,” says Sechrist, who is now engaged to be married. “I have been able to give my children more goals to strive for and more dreams to dream.”
►Residence: Gales Ferry, CT
►Military Service: Served nine years with the Connecticut Army National Guard
►Occupation: Officer Manager, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
►Degree Path: Graduated from American Military University in 2010 with a Master's Degree in Public Administration; earned her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology in 2002