by 1LT Traci Gift
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. � Starting from the ground up isn�t always easy, but one soldier proved you could do anything you put your mind to � even earn a doctorate degree while serving as an active-duty senior noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army.
For SFC Clinton Covert, 11th Signal Brigade�s equal-opportunity advisor here, the oral defense of his dissertation at the University of Southern California in September was the culmination of more than 10 years of higher education while on active duty.
Covert�s dissertation focused on senior-enlisted Army soldiers� motivational orientations and perceived barriers to college participation.
Covert, who earned his doctorate in education, explained why he chose this topic for his dissertation.
�I entered the Army at age 17, and getting a college degree was something I didn�t give much thought,� he said. �In fact, like a majority of the soldiers I interviewed [for the doctoral dissertation], I was a first-generation student. That is to say, my parents held no more than a high-school diploma. Growing up, college was something that wasn�t really talked about as a possibility. I had more than eight years in the Army before I enrolled in my first college course.�
Covert�s study found that a primary barrier for enlisted soldiers� college participation was assignment to tactical or �field� units where mission requirements resulted in frequent deployments.
�Soldiers who named this variable also provided examples of how they were able to overcome this obstacle to participation when a supportive supervisor or chain-of-command was present,� Covert said.
Covert will attend the formal doctoral hooding ceremony at USC�s Spring 2003 commencement in Los Angeles, Calif.
�I hope that my story will serve as an example and inspire other soldiers who desire to participate in college while on active duty. Many soldiers I�ve talked to assume I must have had easy assignments throughout my career to accomplish this,� said Covert. �But I point out that I�ve also been assigned to tactical units that required many deployments and field-training exercises. The key for me was taking advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves.�
As an example, in 1994, instead of waiting for the required courses for his master�s degree to be available at his duty station, he used leave to take the coursework at different education centers throughout Germany. (See sidebar.) By doing this, he was able to finish a two-year program in 12 months.
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company published Covert�s dissertation this fall with the study�s complete findings available at http://www.umi.com. Covert, who is scheduled to retire July 1, 2003, plans to enter the federal system as an equal-employment-opportunity administrator and teach as a university professor.
1LT Gift is 11th Signal Brigade�s public-affairs officer.
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