Harding first to graduate from newest WBU site

November 10, 2010

ENID, Okla. – When it came to education, Dixie Harding was no different from many other career military personnel. The U.S. military places high importance on continuing education and earning college degrees. Harding knew that if she wanted to advance within the military, she would need to further her education.

              In 1992, while stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Harding graduated from Wayland Baptist University with a bachelor’s degree in management. With her degree in hand, she continued to serve in the Air Force, and later realized that she wanted to further her education by pursuing an advanced degree.

              “I wanted it for personal growth and promotion opportunities,” said Harding, who is now a member of the Civil Service and stationed at Vance AFB, where she serves as Housing Asset Manager. “There are a lot more doors that open up when you have your master’s degree.”

              Harding retired from active duty while stationed at Eielson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska. Upon retirement, she joined the Civil Service and continues to work with the Air Force. She began to seriously think about pursuing an advanced degree.

              “There is quite a bit of military emphasis on continued education,” Harding said. “It just helps all around. Any time someone who works for the government gets more education, the government benefits from that.”

              Harding looked into the various education options at Eielson. Wayland also operates a campus at Eielson, so once she decided Wayland was the best option for her, it was a smooth transition from her undergraduate education to the graduate program. Harding joined the Master of Arts in management program that continued to build on her undergraduate education. The program format of four 11-week terms per year worked into her schedule and provided her with the best opportunity to balance her school and personal life.

              “It worked with my schedule and that is what I needed,” she said. “Especially when I was in Alaska and I was working some very long hours. When I transferred here to Vance (Air Force Base), I was able to continue my classes even while driving through Canada.”

              Wayland’s combination of face-to-face, online and hybrid courses made it easy for Harding to complete course requirements through the Internet until she reached Vance in January 2010, where Wayland had just opened an education site. In May, Harding became the first student to officially graduate from the WBU site at Vance AFB.

              “I had no idea when I got here that I would be the first graduate. It just felt good to get the whole thing done,” Harding said.

              Upon reaching Vance, Harding needed only to complete the courses she was currently enrolled in then take six more hours to complete her degree requirements. The transition to the Vance teaching site was an easy one and she finished her final two courses during the next term.

              Although tired of writing research papers, Harding said her educational experience has been positive, and much of what she has learned has benefitted her within her occupation.

              “It goes right along with what I do,” Harding said. “The management theories are really good, and there was a lot of information about dealing with employees, writing appraisals and dealing with difficult situations. The job I’m in now, our housing is privatized. These classes helped me understand more of how the civilian world operates as opposed to the government.”

              Harding said she hasn’t yet ruled out further educational pursuits, but she does want to take a break. However, she is quick to encourage military personnel to pursue their educational goals.

              “When I graduated from high school, if you had a high school diploma you were OK. If you had a bachelor’s degree you could get a really good job,” she said. “Now, if you have a bachelor’s degree you are OK. You need a master’s degree to get a really good job. If you really want to do something, you have to invest in your education.”