Excelsior Class of 2017: Desiree Guzman, Air Force Veteran Soaring Toward Success

Photo Credit: Kris Qua

What does the Urdu language, the Air Force, and a liberal arts degree all have in common? Answer: the perfectly compiled bachelor’s degree for our 2017 graduate, Desiree Guzman.

The Tiffany, Florida native now resides in Grovetown, Georgia with her boyfriend and her two cats. Guzman is an Air Force veteran as of May 2017 and made it a mission to pursue her degree while she was in the service. But her academic history didn’t start in the Air Force. She attended the University of Maryland right after high school, before joining the military. “Education is extremely important in my family,” explained Guzman. “Especially to my dad because he was an educator since before I was born. It was always just very important to my family that I went to college.” Guzman is the oldest of her siblings, so she felt more inclined to set a positive example for them.
As a first-generation college graduate of Hispanic descent, Guzman continued to make her parents proud in the service and in the classroom. In the Air Force, Guzman became an Urdu linguist — the official language of Pakistan. During her time in the Air Force, she attended school in California where she learned the language, which also counted as college credit. “When I was done with that, I went to the Air Force

Desiree and her dad

Community College. I pursued an associate degree in intelligence studies. Then, I got another associate degree in Urdu Studies. At that point, I said to myself that it was time for me to just go ahead and push forward and finish my bachelor’s degree.”

She did just that. Guzman started taking classes with Excelsior in October 2016, transferring in 130 credits from her other academic programs and military training. “Because I already knocked out most of my core competencies with my associate degrees, I only had to take 5 more courses to complete my degree. My goal was to finish school before separating from the military and I met that goal right on the line.”


Her path to academic success was not completely effortless. In December 2014, Guzman was deployed to Afghanistan while she was in the middle of taking courses through another online school.

Desiree and her best friend

Because her deployment was short notice, she was unable to withdraw from her classes without penalty and so she had to pay back all of her loans for the courses. “I was on the other side of the world and there was really nothing I could do about it,” said Guzman. “It put a damper on my motivation to get involved with going back to school again or take that chance again. When I came back, I had different coworkers and friends telling me that they went through Excelsior and it would be faster and more accessible. And I had that goal to finish before I separated and I went ahead and started back up and finished.” Guzman’s best friend is also an Urdu linguist and an Excelsior student. She describes him as her “grounder” and used the military phrase of “embracing the suck” together as they worked toward their educational goals. Guzman walked across the stage on Friday, July 14, 2017, at the Excelsior College Commencement Ceremony and received her Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts degree. Her entire family was there to help her celebrate her wonderful academic achievement.


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