UMGC student Eric Schuler says he always knew, without a doubt, that he would graduate college someday. The question was when and where. Schuler had always wanted to finish school, but life had just gotten in the way.
Schuler had started at Purdue University and ended up leaving to enlist in the Navy, motivated by a wandering desire to explore the world. However, he always knew that a college education was a part of his future. While working for the Navy and stationed in Honolulu, he decided to stop waiting for life to happen and make a change.
"There was this moment, when I was in Hawaii, and I was thinking of all of the things I went through in the Navy, and how much I had learned there, but for me it felt just like character traits listed on a resume. You can't get a job in today's world for just being a nice person," he says. "I wanted those words on my resume, the real weight of a college degree, so I decided to take my future in my own hands."
The next step for him was to find a college that could work around his needs. He knew he wanted to study psychology, because ultimately he wanted to do something to help others. He needed the convenience and flexibility of an online program, but he also wanted a school that would be sensitive to the needs of members of the military and feel like a welcoming community. Price was also a factor.
"Overall, I wanted someone to understand the role that the military played in my life and work around my personal experiences," he says.
He found a UMGC representative at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. She opened her door to him, and after a short meeting, he was able to quickly begin the transfer and enrollment process.
"She was a delight. UMGC was really with me every step of the way to help with my enrollment. I left her office feeling pretty great, like I had just done something important. And I started school shortly afterward," he says.
That was in summer 2013. A year later, Schuler is now one semester away from graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
"I just realized I only have 3 credits left before I graduate!" he says.
He is currently working on a final group project about neuroimaging and works together with other students in his class online.
"Even though we are all far away, we're all friends," Schuler says. "We all motivate and support each other along the way, and I feel very connected to my classmates and the professors."
Schuler believes the long journey has been worth it. He counts finishing his degree is one of the best decisions he's ever made.
"Last year, I decided to take my future into my own hands," he says. "This year, I can say I created my future."