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Military spouse juggles full-time job, relocation and a family while earning a master’s degree long-distance

“I needed flexibility, and I wanted a public university so I could use the GI Bill to cover tuition,” says Robin Webster, who is earning a Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education degree online through Oregon State Ecampus. “Now I don’t even feel like I’m off campus. If I have questions, professors and others respond right away.”

By Gregg Kleiner
July 31, 2019

Robin Webster knew she wanted to earn a master’s degree. But she had a full-time job, is the mother of two daughters, and, as a military spouse, had to move to a new part of the country every couple of years.

And she was living hours away from Oregon State University, where the College of Education offered the degree she wanted to earn: a Master of Education in Adult and Higher Education (Ed.M.).

As a first-generation college student, Robin knew firsthand how hard it had been to earn her bachelor’s degree. She was also very familiar with the challenges of being a military spouse and the impacts that constant relocation has on family and career.

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Pursing a graduate degree seemed a long shot, at best.

Persistence pays off

Robin grew up in New Orleans, was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and has struggled to balance earning a living, getting an education and being a mother.

But these challenges are also what makes her good at what she does: working for a private defense contractor to help military spouses realize their career and education goals.

“I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others,” says Robin, who flunked out of college because she was not mature to start school at the age of 18.

Robin didn’t finish her bachelor’s degree until she was 34 because she worked for 10 years in the hotel industry, where she moved into management and developed employee training programs.

“I knew then that training and education were my passions. But I didn’t have a degree, so I could only go so far.”

“I knew then that training and education were my passions,” she says. “But I didn’t have a degree, so I could only go so far.”

So, she quit her job, completed her bachelor’s degree in New Orleans, and is now pursuing a master’s education online through Oregon State University Ecampus.

An online program that fits her needs

Robin participates in online courses from her home in Camas, Washington, where she recently moved with her husband, who served in the Gulf War and now works as a career counselor in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The move to Washington is the third time the family has been relocated in the past six years, but Robin has learned to embrace the saying, ‘Bloom Where You’re Planted,’ which is part of the reason she selected Oregon State Ecampus.

“I needed flexibility, and I wanted a public university so I could use the GI Bill to cover tuition,” Robin says. “Now I don’t even feel like I’m off campus. If I have questions, professors and others respond right away.”

“I’m learning a lot about how adults learn. So I have more patience with my work, and even more understanding for the people I’m helping.”

She is well-connected with the other students in her cohort and has regular calls to offer and obtain support. The best part of the program for Robin is that everything is accessible, so she can see what’s coming, plan ahead and be prepared.

“I have a full-time job and a family, so this allows me to juggle all of that plus school,” she says. Although the juggling can be overwhelming at times, she’s already applying what she’s studying to her current job.

“I’m learning a lot about how adults learn,” says Robin, whose experience as an adult learner working on her bachelor’s degree over many years helps her relate with the adult learners at her job. “So I have more patience with my work, and even more understanding for the people I’m helping.”

After she completes her master’s degree in a year, she hopes to become a career counselor, so she can “help students navigate college and find their dreams.”

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