Like many children born into military families, Bachelor of Science of Liberal Arts graduate Felicia Haecker spent her childhood traveling the globe until her father retired and settled in Lawton, Oklahoma, the place she now calls home. “Sheltered” as a child, Felicia knew she wasn’t ready for college upon graduation from high school. So she followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the service, eventually separating from the military as a Technical Sergeant (E-6).
Excelsior Life recently sat down with Haecker, a 2007 graduate of Excelsior, to learn more about her educational journey and how military life prepared her for academic success. Haecker is currently a mentor in the Center for Military and Veteran Education’s Veteran Mentorship Program.
Excelsior Life: What drew you to the armed forces? How did you like the experience?
Haecker: I was quite sheltered by my parents. I knew I was not ready for college; I would have wasted my parent’s money. Having been around the military my entire life it just seemed to be the right step to gain independence, start a career, and still have the opportunity to attend college when I am ready. My experience was positive. I began as a photographer and that allowed me to grow up and capture much of my journey through the lens of a camera. My favorite memory is having breakfast in Baltimore, lunch in Italy and dinner in Kuwait. I was 19 years old at the time!
Excelsior Life: When did you decide to go back to school? Why did you want to secure a degree?
Haecker: I promised myself I would not get out of the military without a degree. After my first enlistment I was not even close to earning a degree so I had to reenlist. Nearing the end of my second enlistment I started going to school full time and earned my Bachelor of Arts (from Excelsior) in December, 2007. I immediately jumped into a master’s program and graduated in 2009. In 2012 I began my doctoral journey and finished the program in August 2014.
Excelsior Life: Did you face any academic challenges along the way while pursuing your bachelor’s degree?
Haecker: Early in my career deployments and (station changes) were a constant disruption to attending college and finishing. I had to change my degree several times, until I found Excelsior. This allowed me to go to school anywhere/anytime.
Excelsior Life: Did your military experience help prepare you to manage your time studying and finishing coursework?
Haecker: My military experience definitely helped me get through all of my programs of study. What really helped was the work ethic I developed while in the military. It also helped me function when assigned to team projects.
Excelsior Life: How important was online and distance learning to your overall experience and degree progression?
Haecker: If there was no online option I am not sure I would have ever been able to complete any of my degrees. It definitely would have taken me twice as long and I doubt I would have moved beyond a Master’s degree.
Excelsior Life: What advice can you offer servicemembers and veterans who are deciding on colleges, careers?
Haecker: Be honest with yourself and pick a career path or degree program that truly speaks to you. As military members we consider ourselves warriors and able to take on the most difficult of tasks. In college we may start out overly zealous and take on too many classes and burn ourselves out. Or, we realize we really don’t want to finish this particular degree because it doesn’t speak to us. Take your time and educate yourself before fully jumping in to anything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if something doesn’t pass the sniff test keep asking questions!