Navy admiral turns to Penn State World Campus to help serve country

Matt Caracappa
December 19, 2016

Rear Adm. Linda Wackerman knew when she took oversight of a nationwide emergency preparedness program in 2011 that she needed to go back to school to better understand the complexities of homeland security. That’s why she turned to Penn State to help her better serve the nation.

“I was running a program for all 50 states and U.S. territories and having to answer the call to the highest levels of the Navy and Department of Defense,” said Wackerman, who has more than 30 years of experience in the Navy in both active duty and reserve capacities. “I thought I better get a good foundation and become the real expert, and take this top degree in the country.”

Wackerman graduated on Dec. 17, with a master of professional studies in homeland security after completing the 33-credit degree entirely online through Penn State World Campus. Wackerman is one of nearly 900 World Campus students who received their degrees through the University’s fall commencement ceremony.

The Quakertown, Bucks County, native says admirals in the reserves are assigned jobs with an active-duty component and perform duties either on a part-time or full-time basis. Wackerman has served as the deputy director of capabilities assessment for chief of naval operations since November 2014, deputy naval inspector general in a full-time role since May 2016, and was assigned in December as deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet.

Wackerman took one class per semester while balancing her military, work and home responsibilities. She works with the Defense Support of Civil Authority, which helps organizations respond to natural or man-made emergencies, and is an American Airlines pilot, wife to a retired Navy reserve commander and pilot, and mother to four children.

She said she usually completed her coursework in the morning or during layovers while traveling.

“It’s been a crazy balancing act. I have a great husband who keeps it together at home while I’m traveling, and American Airlines is a great employer that recognizes military duty,” Wackerman said.

Wackerman, who has served in the Pentagon in various capacities and was the chief of staff for the Washington Navy Yard shooting, said she has been able to apply the knowledge gained from the program to her work. 

“The program gave me the foundational knowledge needed, a full understanding of homeland security and DSCA, and provided me a network that I can always fall back on and tap into,” Wackerman said. “I’ve met with Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and former FEMA Director Craig Fugate, and what I’ve learned has been very helpful when working with top levels of homeland security.”

Visit the Penn State World Campus website for more information about online learning.

  • Linda Wackerman

    Rear Adm. Linda Wackerman

    IMAGE: U.S. Navy

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 12, 2021