Army fellowship helped 20 soldiers earn Penn State master’s degrees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Twenty of the U.S. Army’s senior enlisted soldiers were honored Aug. 22, after earning Penn State master’s degrees as part of a fellowship aimed at improving their teaching skills to prepare the military’s next generation of leaders.

The 20 U.S. Army sergeants major were recognized at a ceremony at Fort Bliss in Texas after completing the first year of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA) Fellowship Program. As part of the fellowship, the soldiers each graduated with a master’s of education in lifelong learning and adult education through Penn State World Campus. The cohort is the second to graduate from Penn State.

“I felt I was obligated to do it and that it was a calling when the opportunity arose to get a second graduate degree and then be able to teach the future leaders of the Army,” said Sgt. Maj. Kanessa Trent, one of six Fellows who also attended Penn State’s summer commencement at University Park.

The full cohort will continue to the next phase of the fellowship and teach three years in the Sergeants Major Course, which prepares the military’s next generation of leaders with the skills they need on and off the battlefield. A new group of Fellows will arrive this week at Fort Bliss to begin the program and World Campus courses.

Trent, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has served in the Army for 24 years, most recently in public affairs for the Asia-Pacific region. After earning her degree, she decided to continue her education online through World Campus’ distance education certificate and wants to be an adjunct professor.

“If I can find a university where I can work with adults and provide them an opportunity for them to reach their goals, that would satisfy the desire in me,” Trent said.

Sgt. Maj. Michael Irvin, from York, Pennsylvania, also wants to parlay his experience in the program to teach at the college level. The 22-year veteran was stationed in Fort Shafter, Hawaii, where he was responsible for training exercises and operations in the Pacific. He says the knowledge he gained will help him in his post-Army career while attending Penn State helped him fulfill a lifelong dream.

“It’s my desire to teach adults now in the military and in a few years at a college when I retire,” Irvin said. “I also grew up a Penn State fan and knowing that I had the opportunity to earn a degree from my favorite university was a dream come true.”

A 29-year service member, Sgt. Maj. Johnnie Bryant-Johnson said the program will provide her with the necessary tools to professionally develop the future enlisted leaders of the armed forces. Once she retires, the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, native wants to continue her role as a teacher and help young adults and high school students access institutes of higher education. Bryant-Johnson, whose mother passed away from ovarian cancer following a short battle with the disease in 2003, also wants to become active in the funding of cancer research.

She praised World Campus’ online community of collaboration and support, which helped the program exceed her expectations.

Trent echoed those sentiments.

“Penn State World Campus is phenomenal in every way. Everything from online discussions with fellow students, who are all over the globe, and interactions with professors has been a home run,” Trent said. “The relationship that Penn State has invested with USASMA has clearly been a priority for the administrators of Penn State.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information.

Last Updated October 23, 2017