Long Beach,
09
November
2017
|
01:18 AM
America/Los_Angeles

Army Veteran Finds Balance in Life with Degree Completion Program

Summary

U.S. Army veteran Brandon Irving was determined to be a role model to his children. He was so determined, that in addition to juggling all of life’s responsibilities, he enrolled in Cal State Long Beach’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts (BALA) degree completion program.

By Richard Manly

U.S. Army veteran Brandon Irving was determined to be a role model to his children. He was so determined, that in addition to juggling all of life’s responsibilities, he enrolled in Cal State Long Beach’s Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts (BALA) degree completion program. 

He served eight years as a member of the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, and after leaving the Army, he worked in the private sector – all while helping to raise a family. Irving, a court services assistant for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, began taking classes at community college. He later transferred to CSULB after discovering its BALA program.

A Lynwood, Calif., resident, Irving always knew he wanted to attend the university, but his military obligations, career and the demands of being a dad to two grown sons and a younger daughter, made for a whole new set of priorities. By 2015, his eldest son’s then-approaching college graduation nudged him toward the BALA program.

“The BALA degree completion program offers a second chance to folks who have always wanted to finish their educations but have had life get in the way,” BALA Director Maythee Rojas said. “By providing a generalist degree in the liberal arts, we offer our students a broad education base that can be applied to numerous career goals. We’ve been especially excited to be able to assist returning veterans, like Brandon. Oftentimes, the training they’ve received in the military leaves them believing they have to enter more technical fields like engineering, which can prove discouraging if they can’t succeed in or be admitted into such programs.

“Because all of our courses emphasize strong writing, analytical and communication skills, we [are able to] provide our students with the ability to think beyond just one kind of job or workplace. Our graduates have gone on to work in diverse fields, including education, manufacturing and law enforcement. They have also continued their educations, receiving master’s degrees in health administration and business. I see Brandon very much following this same trajectory and I hope our program can expand to offer this opportunity to many more veterans.”

For Irving, “enrolling at Cal State Long Beach was definitely worthwhile.”

“It was the only school I applied to when it came time for me to transfer,” Irving said. “I pushed my sons to do their best in school. I felt I needed to go to college too. I did not feel I could tell my sons to do something without doing the something. I wanted to confirm that I practice what I preach. Always give your best effort and never quit.”

Irving found that the BALA class schedule – every Wednesday night and every other Saturday – allowed him the flexibility to fulfill all his roles as a father, husband and working professional. “I found the BALA class schedule useful,” he said. “One of the hassles of pursuing a degree was to find the classes I needed to fulfill my graduate requirements. Because I had a full-time job, I only could go to school at night. BALA offered classes suitable for graduation.”

The BALA program’s cohort model helped Irving succeed. “I enjoyed it because I liked going through the program with the same people,” he said. “We all worked and we all had family. That shared mindset helped a lot. If, for some reason, one of us was unable to make a class, the others kept that person abreast of what went on. We included each other in our success as a cohort.

“The most important thing that I have learned through BALA is how to connect the dots between diverse groups of subjects. It also has streamlined my journey to a college degree, which opens the door to new employment opportunities.”

With an eye toward someday earning a Master of Business Administration at Cal State Long Beach, Irving encourages others to enroll in the BALA program. “Not only does the program understand the life of a student, it understands older students that also have responsibilities outside of school,” he said. “CSULB feels like home and the BALA program is great.”