Marian Johnson: “Find balance”

JohnsonMarian Johnson, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) instructor at Atholton High School in Columbia, Maryland needed an associate degree to maintain her position. Marian learned from colleagues that Excelsior College could provide an efficient path to degree completion using her previous military and civilian transcripts.

After extensive research and speaking with the Admissions team at Excelsior, Marian learned about the school’s transfer policy and realized using her previously earned credits would position her for completing her degree quickly. The ability to transfer not only her coursework earned abroad, but several military service and community college courses would mean she would need just 12 to 15 credits to finish an associate degree.

Not having a VA education benefit to fall back on, Marian discovered that through her Association of the United States Army (AUSA) membership combined with Excelsior College’s veteran education partnership with the Capital District Chapter of AUSA, she could receive reduced tuition and fees at the college.  She transferred her membership quickly from the Maryland AUSA Chapter to the Capital District Chapter of AUSA to be able to receive the benefit of the special pricing.

Marian explained her story really began when she joined the United States Army on advice of a family friend.  Over the next twenty-two years, Marian, traveled the globe, spending time in Germany (twice), Korea, Alabama, Texas, Colorado and Maryland. While stationed abroad, she made time to see each and every adjoining country.

She married within three years of joining the military and soon started a family. Along the way she took some college classroom courses at night while working as an Instructor training basic graduates on military occupation skills. However, she put her two daughters’ education ahead of her own. After Desert Storm, Marian retired as a Sergeant First Class.

Upon retirement from the Army, Marian took a position as a JROTC instructor, always a military woman at heart. She continues to make an impact on young people, helping to teach them not only the social sciences, but leadership skills and life lessons. Eventually, moving up the ranks required her to head back to school for an associate degree. She began to search for institutions with the flexibility to balance her life. Her fellow instructors, graduates of Excelsior College themselves, were quick to recommend the private, nonprofit, educational institution.

However, online learning was an unfamiliar concept and Marian found the classes far more demanding than anticipated. But her academic advisors offered the support she needed; instructors, the guidance and motivation to succeed.

Balancing home life, which included taking care of an elderly mother, with her academics wasn’t always easy though. Often times, Marian would return home from work only to barricade herself in her room with a laptop and stack of assignments until 10 pm. But her husband and children never wavered as a support system – they understood that a degree meant more to Marian than a piece of paper.

“My daughters, both of whom earned graduate degrees, were my inspiration and kept me motivated along the way” said Marian. “And that’s what I try to instill in all my JROTC students.   That’s when life presents you with a challenge; you can either run away or deal with it. What you decide, it defines you as a person.”

While Marian plans to retired as a JROTC instructor, her educational journey is far from complete. “I want my bachelor’s degree, and when I put my mind to it, I know I will succeed.” At his point, who would doubt her?

Marian Johnson, Army retired