When Gloria Jenkins was pregnant with her son, Chris, doctors told her that she probably wouldn't be able to carry him to term. If she somehow did, they said, either she or her son would likely die during birth.
They beat the odds and both survived.
Chris, who has been in the Navy for nearly 20 years, graduated with a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Strategic Communication from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in May.
"I know the sacrifices she made," he said. "From day one with me, her life was on the line. My proudest moment was being able to tell my mom that she can mark herself as receiving her master's degree. My mom never finished school -- she dropped out in the sixth grade because she got pregnant with my brother. With that, her life was a major struggle."
Jenkins, an E-6 Petty Officer First Class stationed in Laurel, Maryland, is planning for life after the Navy with an MBA. His retirement date is in January 2020, but it will be sooner because of his unused leave time.
"I was thinking about my future and what I am going to be doing," he said. "I wanted to make myself more marketable for when my retirement comes."
Jenkins started college right after he finished high school in West Memphis, Arkansas, but the lifestyle and freedom got the better of him.
"I was one of those people who felt like high school was easy," he said. "It was my first time out on my own. I was doing more of the partying than the school stuff. I ended up having to leave school and do jobs. I thought, 'I have to find a way to help myself get back to college so I can fix my mistake and pursue my academics.'"
He settled on enlisting in the Navy, although several of his family members were in the Army. While stationed in Pensacola, Florida, Jenkins found his way back to college and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University in 2007. He did some of the coursework online and some at a local distance learning center.
When Jenkins made the decision to go back to school again, he was drawn to SOSU, for a few reasons.
"I searched to see what business school accreditations were most respected," Jenkins said. "Because I feared the cost would come out of my pocket, I said, 'Show me schools that have this accreditation but are inexpensive.' SOSU was on the list. To add to it, there was no GMAT requirement. Plus, the military helped out a lot with fees and payments. We're winning here."
The fully online, asynchronous format was also ideal for his military work schedule.
"I spent a lot of my time on a watch floor that operated 12-hour shifts, 24/7," Jenkins said. "There ended up being some downtime. My job was very much willing to allow me to do schoolwork during that downtime, so that helped a lot."
Change in Course
When Jenkins enrolled in the SOSU online MBA program, he began with the Entrepreneurship emphasis. He was also starting a job in critical situation response, which was essentially planning for missile launches around the world. He switched to Strategic Communication after one semester.
"Once I started doing that job, it made me decide I wanted to lean that way," Jenkins said. "I'm hoping to continue to work in the critical response field for the federal government. My major job now is I'm the training non-commissioned officer in charge of the weapons accountable deliberation desk. I was an operator on that desk."
Because of his duties, the two emphasis courses, COMM 5113: Strategic Communication and COMM 5123: Crisis Communication, were extremely applicable.
"So much of what I had to know and prepare to do was being taught to me as the person who needed to be able to do these things," Jenkins said. "Now, I've learned how to put these things together and put them out there to the world. It's not just knowing how to do the critical response. Now, I know how to put together the critical response plan for the organization."
Despite learning so much applicable knowledge in his communication courses, Jenkins' favorite course was actually MNGT 5223: Behavioral Management, taught by Dr. C.W. Von Bergen.
"It was probably my toughest class," Jenkins said. "There was a lot of reading. With that class, I learned a lot about people, in general, and the differences that exist between us with the open conversation that was presented by the material.
"Not everything that I read was pleasing to me, but the fact that the other students and I were able to have an open dialogue about it and get to a final agreement point where everybody's view was heard was very pleasing."
Jenkins believes having an MBA will open up numerous career opportunities once he becomes a civilian.
"I've already been looking in the areas of communication and public relations," he said. "I have seen so many jobs available out there asking for a master's degree in that area. I still have service to my country before I can do that."
Jenkins, who volunteers for Saturday Scholars and Project Smile, also honed his organizational and personal skills in the online MBA program with an emphasis in Strategic Communication.
"The biggest advice I can give is to make sure you have strong time management skills and that you are open to the views of others," he said. "Specifically, for Strategic Communications, be open-minded and know you have to take the things you learn and counter that with the personal experiences of those around you."
With graduation day fast approaching, Jenkins is eager to walk the stage in front of his family -- especially his mother, who will see two of her children graduate in the span of three days.
"My baby sister [Alverdean] completed her associate degree in hospitality management at Arkansas State University recently," he said. "On my way to my graduation, I stopped for her graduation on May 10th. Then, I went to mine on May 12th.
"My mom told me to get a big enough vehicle so we can transport the people we need to take. The one thing she wanted from us was to finish high school, so it was incredible to be able to tell her that I have done the master's degree," he said. "I'm so proud of everything she did."
Learn more about the SOSU online MBA program with an emphasis in Strategic Communication.
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