Commencement Stories: David Miller, National Guard member balances school work and service to earn degree

David Miller is a 2016 Excelsior College graduate of the School of Liberal Arts.  He has earned his bachelor of science degree.  As a member of the New York Army National Guard since 2001, he is currently a Sergeant First Class serving as an Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) Operations Sergeant for the 204th Engineer Battalion.  Miller became Active Duty for Operational Support in November of 2006 as a Career Counselor and then joined the AGR Program in May of 2008.  He first learned about the College from other National Guard soldiers and began pursuing his degree in 2013.  Miller grew up in California but has been living in Endicott, New York since 1989, where he is continuing to further his education as an MBA student at Excelsior College.  Miller will be attending the Commencement ceremony with his mother in July for his induction into Salute, the Veterans National Honor Society for Excelsior College.

Excelsior Life: When did you decide to go back to school? Why did you want to secure a degree?

Miller: I joined the New York Army National Guard in August of 2001 with the intention of going back to school at that point.  Unfortunately, the events of September 11th and subsequent military obligations put a damper on those plans. I did return to Broome Community College in 2003 and completed one semester to finish my associate degree.  In 2013, I finally made the decision to return to school to earn my bachelor’s degree with Excelsior David Miller 1College.  My original goal was to finish before my 40th birthday in July of 2014.  Due to an unexpected notification for deployment of my National Guard unit later that year (which was eventually cancelled) I had to put off my studies for a couple semesters. After the deployment was cancelled in late 2014, I returned to my studies, took extra courses, and finished my final course in December of 2015.

Excelsior Life: Why did you chose to pursue a bachelor of science in liberal arts degree?

Miller: I chose this mainly because it maximized my previous college credits as well as my military education and experience.  Also, the liberal arts degree allowed me flexibility to take classes that interested me as well as giving me a broader knowledge in which to continue my education regardless of the field I choose to pursue.

Excelsior Life: What programs and/or courses were most influential to you?

Miller: The courses that were most influential to me were probably my conflict management course because it taught me skills and techniques that I could readily apply to my work and life. My course in Revolutionary American History class required me to think critically about events I was already familiar with and look at them in new ways.

Excelsior Life: What academic challenges did you face along the way? How did you overcome them?

Miller: It was difficult getting back into the swing of taking classes since it was over 10 years when I last attended college. I found that I just needed to apply myself and get myself into the right mindset again.  It was also difficult balancing a full-time military position with my course load. I had to improve my time management skills and also prioritize what was important and not as important when I planned out my time away from work.  I ended up being able to plan leave days around when I knew I would have exceptionally heavy class requirements. Also, I was able to be creative with completing my work. Often I would be away for the military on weekends which were my normal times to get a lot of my work done.  My iPad with cellular data was a life saver in this respect as it allowed me to complete my work almost anywhere and anytime.


David Miller and Dad 2
David Miller along side his dad

Excelsior Life: Did you have a support system throughout your educational journey?

Miller: My family and friends were very supportive and were very understanding when I would cancel plans or not be able to do certain things because I had to do school work. It helped me just knowing that they were all rooting for me to achieve my goals.

Excelsior Life: How do you think your education will position you for life beyond the military/your educational journey? What are your future plans?

Miller: I really think completing my degree will position me for better opportunities in the future for employment and further educational pursuits.  On the military side, I believe it will help me with future promotions and possibly open some additional opportunities up for me.  My plans for the future are continuing my education. I am currently enrolled in the MBA program with Excelsior College. I hope to either enter the civilian work force after graduating, possibly continue on to a doctoral program, or pursuing a certificate in college teaching.  I have just recently decided to leave Active Duty and return to a part-time status with the Army National Guard in order to work on my MBA on a full-time basis.


Excelsior Life: Do you think you’ve been able to apply what you’ve learned toward your career?

Miller: I definitely think that I can apply what I have learned towards my career.  The communication and critical thinking skills I have learned are readily applicable to every field of endeavor and invaluable skills to have in my tool box.

Excelsior Life: What does having this degree mean to you?

Miller: Completing my degree means so much to me. Setting a goal of completing my degree and actually doing it was a fantastic feeling and gave me an immense sense of pride and accomplishment.

On July 8, hundreds of graduates from across the world will convene in Albany, New York for Excelsior College’s 2016 Commencement, to be held at the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany, New YorkCommencement Stories” explores the stories of a few of this year’s notable graduates.

Emily Young
About Emily Young 70 Articles
Emily Young is the Social Media and Communities Manager for Excelsior College.

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