Army Veteran Balances it All: Career, School, Mountain Bikes

Josh seated at a computer workstation in a home office while writing

Josh Michael
Bachelor’s in Business Administration

When Josh Michael was 18 he set out to do what most other high school graduates did at that time: go to college. He moved to Indianapolis in pursuit of an associate degree in computer aided drafting and eventually found a career in sales.

Fast forward 10 years, and Josh found a new calling: to serve his country. Even though he would be older than 80 percent of his battalion, he joined the Army as an infantryman and soon deployed to Afghanistan to fight on the frontlines.

In 2011, Josh’s unit was deployed to Logar Province, one of the most dangerous areas at the time. With only 20 days remaining in his deployment, he took a direct hit from an 82mm mortar round. The blast destroyed his left elbow and knee, and also left him with a traumatic brain injury. It took a year and a half at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to recover from his injuries before being medically retired with a Purple Heart.

But that’s not the end of Josh’s journey.

“I wanted the best.”

Having had sales experience before joining the Army, Josh was fortunate to find employment with a company dedicated to hiring military veterans.

“When I retired [from the Army] my company hired me right away,” says Josh. “It was very challenging to transition into a civilian job. They let me work a few hours a week, while I was still recovering, to get to know the company.”

But the sales profession is competitive. Josh knows this. He often times describes his career as “high pressure.” So, when he decided it was time to use his GI Bill and earn his bachelor’s degree, Josh knew he couldn’t afford to put his career on hold.

Ball State University’s online bachelor degree programs provided Josh with the option to further his education – with the same academic rigor as on campus – while also continuing his career.

“There are many online schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration,” says Josh. “But I wanted a school with a strong reputation as a university, not just an online school. I wanted the best.”

A Balancing Act

Josh leads a very busy life. In addition to his full-time career and course load, he’s a husband, mountain biker, and an active churchman. So, discipline – which his military career taught him – is one key to this balancing act.

“Balancing life is a difficult mission for anyone. I have learned to be efficient by embracing the challenge,” says Josh. “I would like to do other things, but my end goal is to be a positive impact on society. Being a well-educated veteran is the best way I know how to do that.”

Another key factor to Josh’s balancing act is the support of his academic advisor, Laura Waldron. He notes that the degree completion timeline is very important to him. Working with Laura has helped him strategize his course load, based off his job’s schedule, and remain on track to graduate on time.

“Josh and I connect regularly throughout the semester … and we discuss what is going well for him or questions he has,” says Laura. “He works tremendously hard to balance life, a full-time job and a full academic load, and he does it well. He’s incredibly driven to complete his degree in four years and he sets very high standards for himself and his course work. I am very proud of him.”

Even though there’s only 24 hours in a day, Josh makes his schedule work, and advises others that they can, too.

“You will be surprised how much time you have for school when you make it a priority,” says Josh.

Well-deserved Honors

Since Josh is always pressed for time, he enjoys how Ball State’s online bachelor’s in business administration program has allowed him to work at a pace and in an environment that is best for him, where he can focus without many distractions, other than his dog Lieutenant Colonel Bunker.

Plus, having to commute to campus wouldn’t leave much time for Josh’s mountain biking excursions. His involvement with mountain biking began as an opportunity for physical fitness and therapy, but it became something more.

In 2014, Josh was selected to join former President George W. Bush for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative’s Warrior 100K (W100K). The W100K is an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride for U.S. military servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured since September 11, 2001. Josh has participated in every ride since.

Adding to this experience, President Bush published “Portraits of Courage” in 2017. The book is a collection of portraits he painted of veterans he had met throughout his life. Josh was one of 98 veterans selected for this honor.

May 2020 will bring more well-deserved and hard-earned honors for Josh: graduation and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Now or Never: Miller, 77, Proves It’s Never Too Late to Earn Bachelor’s Degree

Jane Bell Miller
Bachelor’s in General Studies

There were only two concerns Jane Bell Miller had before starting her educational journey online. One, if she could manage the technology involved. Two, how she would pass a math class after 60 years of not studying the subject.

Miller isn’t like your typical online student. At 77 years young, she set out to complete her bachelor’s degree through Ball State Online.

“Academic success is not about the age of the body or how long since you were last in school,” said Miller. “It has everything to do with determination and a willingness to do whatever it takes.”

Now or Never

Rather than attending college after graduating from high school in 1958 – a decision she’s always regretted – Miller began working as a secretary at the University of Virginia. However, throughout the course of her 40-year secretarial career, Miller picked up enough credits at community college to earn her associate degree in 1997.

Twenty years later, Miller decided that if she was going to earn her bachelor’s degree, it was now or never. Ball State Online academic advisor, Laura Waldron, helped Miller determine which of her prior courses would transfer into the bachelor of general studies program.

“Taking that first step is the hardest. From then on, it’s just a matter of following through on the next step, and the next,” said Miller. “I credit Ball State’s staff with making my online learning experience so successful.”

Miller has never felt disconnected to her instructors or classmates, even though her classes are completely online. In fact, being an online student has given her the freedom to open up in assignments and discussion boards in a way that might otherwise be intimidating in a classroom setting.

A Fueling Factor

Completing her education means more to Miller than just a diploma; it’s also a way to keep her mind active and sharp at her age.

“A factor fueling my focus on education is that my mother died of complications from Alzheimer’s, so I am willing to do anything in my power to try to avoid the same fate. Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy the process of learning,” said Miller.

It’s evident Miller’s doing just that, as proof of the 4.0 GPA she’s maintained every semester at Ball State.

“It is so satisfying to see that my brain can handle the material just as well as a 20-year-old [student],” said Miller.

Never Stop Learning

Miller is set to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s in general studies, but admits that her learning will not stop there. After graduation, she plans to resume piano lessons and work to improve her bridge game as a way to continue exercising her brain.

“I had held back for years before looking into finishing my degree,” said Miller. “I’m so glad I decided, ‘It’s now or never.’ ”

As for that math class, Miller proved once again that there wasn’t a challenge she couldn’t tackle. She did, however, make sure to celebrate her passing grade and no longer needing to study probabilities and statistics again.

Student/Police Officer Says Ball State Online “Has Made the Impossible Possible”

Even though Jason Boring planned to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice program, he liked the idea that Ball State was not hundreds of miles away. He had grown up in east central Indiana so he knew the university projected credibility.

An officer for New Castle Police Department, Boring was looking toward the day he would retire—at a young 45—and begin a second career in criminal justice.

With family responsibilities that include four children, he knew it would be impossible to study on campus or even attend full time online. But realizing it was time to finish his bachelor’s, he enrolled in Ball State’s online undergraduate degree in criminal justice and criminology in 2015.

Q: You’ve been pursuing your degree one class at a time, correct?

A: Being able to work on the online classes piecemeal has been a huge help. So I read a chapter, I do a quiz, then I take a test once the kids are in bed. My Kindle and the ease and mobility with which I can read my textbooks has greatly helped. Online classes allow me to take smaller bites, but still make very real progress on my degree. It has made the impossible possible. I am not in a particular hurry to graduate because I’ll be working 20 years to gain my pension.

Q: Have you had to adapt to online education?

A: This is the first experience I have had with online study. My main challenges have been adapting my learning style to a more self-reliant approach. Online study has been harder for me than having a professor and classroom time. Scheduling has been a struggle, too, due to my work and other family obligations. However, the professors have been very accessible to me via phone, text, e-mail. My advisors, too, have been very quick to help. They have helped me get the classes I need.

Q: What will your degree do for your second career?

A: I would like to transition my career from a police officer “on the street” to a management-related position within law enforcement, such as probation. I also enjoy teaching so I might go for my master’s and teach at a community college or at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy as well. Regardless of which particular field I enter after retirement, a BA degree from Ball State will help me greatly on my way. I think that it will strengthen my skill set and help open doors in the future.

Ball State Online Grad Becomes Digital Media Entrepreneur

Typically, a bachelor of general studies degree sets students on a wide road toward a number of career destinations.

But the path of Sophia Benedict provides a good example of how Ball State’s bachelor of general studies (BGS) can provide students with specific skill sets in a specific field. Benedict enrolled in the BGS program, which is offered 100 percent online, and chose to customize her program with minors in digital media and business information technology.

“I wanted to dive deeper into the digital world,” says Benedict, who brought marketing experience to her degree.

Her story is also one of an adventurous soul on a literal journey with destinies unknown. Benedict and family are hitting the road this summer for a year-long travel adventure that will take them to the American Northwest and parts beyond. Benedict, a self-described entrepreneur, will continue her virtual work of consulting other entrepreneurs who want to grow their online communities. She will also teach a digital course that she calls, “48-Hour Digital Storyteller.”

Q: In general, what were your major takeaways from the BGS program?

I learned a lot about elements of design, digital storytelling, and how to conduct research.

Q: You said you chose Ball State’s BGS program, in part, because of the digital media courses?

Digital media excites me. I wanted to dive deeper into the digital world. Business information technology seemed to complement the digital media minor. I have a well-rounded background in marketing.

Q: Did your professors provide you with any projects that were particularly interesting?

The digital media instructors were especially helpful. For example, one journalism professor required the class to turn in “learning documents.” Rather than summarizing information, we were required to explain how this information benefited us, how we can apply it to our field, and then to find counter arguments for it. It really made me think deeper about the knowledge he presented.

A couple faculty set up Google Hangouts where they and a few students would video conference our studies and progress. Both took the time to give constructive criticism on all of our written work and allowed us to revise as part of the learning process.

Q: You have launched an online business that teaches your clients how to make an impact through social media.

Yes. Ball State’s program taught me the principles of design, how to incorporate design to help tell stories. So I teach my clients how to share stories that make an impact. I teach them how to follow the framework of the “hero’s journey” by breaking their life into small, digestible stories to spread on social media.

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