From College of Distance Education
Aug. 13, 2013
NEWPORT, R.I. -- U.S. Navy Lt. Kristen Kerns began the 2012-2013 U.S. Naval War College (NWC) academic year in Port Hueneme, Calif., enrolled in her third Fleet Seminar Program (FSP) core course, Joint Maritime Operations (JMO), in September 2012.
Like hundreds of other students at 20 satellite sites, or Additional Instructional Locations (AILs), across the country, she was pursuing the completion of Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) and working toward earning an NWC master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. In her case, the path to completion was to prove very different from the norm.
“Many of our distance students remain in the same duty station location during the course of an academic year,” said professor Jay Hickey, the director for NWC’s College of Distance Education (CDE). “In Lt. Kerns’ case, the needs of the Navy and her training pipeline had her traveling quite a bit. One of the benefits of how we’ve structured our programs leveraging advanced educational technologies and locations throughout the country is that we can be flexible in helping our students succeed.”
Perseverance and motivation on the part of the student still matters the most.
Soon after starting the JMO course in California, Kerns received permanent change of station orders to the Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS). During the Thanksgiving school recess, she drove cross-country with her family to Newport, R.I. After moving into a new home, she reported to Aegis Training and Readiness Center in Dahlgren, Va., to complete a two-month course and the beginning of the training track of a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) department head.
Due to rotational scheduling, the JMO course was not being offered in Dahlgren. As a result, Kerns commuted one night a week to attend class at the Washington Navy Yard. When Kerns completed the Aegis training in March, she returned to SWOS for the six-month Department Head Course. She continued with JMO by joining the Newport FSP class at the NWC campus, completing the course in May.
“It just happens that my career timeline had me transferring three times during the academic year,” said Kerns. “Because the Fleet Seminar Program teaches the courses in sync, I was able to seamlessly transition from one class to the next without missing material or getting lost.”
While most CDE students pursue their education at night after work, including some who also transfer to new duty stations during the year, Kerns took a path even less traveled, considering she was pregnant.
Over thirty-four weeks, three duty stations, and a cross-country move, the only seminar session she missed was to give birth to her son in May.
To top it all off, for the past two years she was also enrolled in the Naval Postgraduate School’s Master of Science in Systems Engineering program, completing the degree in March.
Once she finishes final elective work, Kerns expects to receive her NWC master’s degree this coming year.
“My advice for potential distance education students is to know your career path and how you can work your postgraduate education into it,” said Kerns. “There is an enormous amount of flexibility built into the program, but there is also an enormous amount of reading. It will take effort, but it is well worth it in the end.”
Since 1914, NWC’s distance programs have provided education to students unable to attend the resident course, often due to the demands of their busy careers. With a diverse, dispersed, and often deployed student body, CDE offers four delivery methodologies to give students the opportunity to earn JPME Phase I credit. CDE faculty deliver intermediate-level JPME through the FSP, Web-enabled program, the CDROM-based program and the Naval War College-at-Naval Postgraduate School Program.