Earning a college degree is never easy, whether you pursue it while on active duty, in the reserves, or after you have left military service. But two service members who attended Divine Mercy University (DMU) explain why the same skills you worked so hard to master in the military, also lead to student success.
Coast Guard Lt. Noelle Kitenko currently serves on active duty. A few years ago, she temporarily transitioned to the reserves to pursue a Master of Science in Psychology. She knew she wanted an online university because she was preparing for a cross-country PCS move and already had a 1-year–old baby.
She was attracted to DMU because “they integrate modern psychology with Catholic philosophy, which helps you view the person holistically and not define them by their psychological condition. You want to pick a good school with a strong reputation. I was impressed with the rigor and depth of their classes.”
Kristen Long is a human resources officer in the Army Reserve. She is attending DMU to earn a Doctor of Psychology degree to become an active–duty psychologist after graduation.
“I was drawn to the Psy.D. program out of a desire to serve others in a more profound way than my previous positions offered. As I built relationships with clients and soldiers alike, I realized that I wanted to work with them at a different level which could affect lasting change in their lives,” Long said.
Kitenko added that the resilience she learned in her military career, and by attending the Coast Guard Academy, helped her succeed in college too.
“Grad school added a lot of work to my plate, so I knew that as long as I managed my time well, I could get through it. If you’re balancing active duty with a course load, time management is key. I wrote out deadlines for the whole semester so I always knew what was coming. I built in buffer time of at least a day per assignment in case things came up at work. Talk to your professors and other students about emergencies to get an extension if you need it,” she explained.
Transitioning to online education can be a big adjustment. Online classes offer greater flexibility, which Kitenko needed when she took maternity leave during her degree program, but it also required more personal discipline.
“I definitely learned the importance of maintaining good communication with my classmates and professors, especially in the online environment,” she said.
A supportive learning environment for students
The university prides itself on a student body — including alumni — that come from over 30 states as well as 13 other countries. Because Divine Mercy is a military-friendly institution, attendees can also anticipate fellow veterans within the classrooms. The school offers a military discount on tuition, making it easy for veterans to use their earned education benefits like the Post-9/11 GI Bill or their service branch’s TA program. Kitenko said she appreciated the other military branches being represented in her classes at DMU.
“It was good to have that perspective from other veterans who had experienced other aspects of the military. Since online classes are primarily discussion forums, it was easier to relate to veterans with shared experiences,” she said.
A new partnership with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA
Divine Mercy University recently announced a new partnership that allows it to provide financial support to chaplains and laity who desire to provide mental health services for military personnel and their families.
“This new collaboration with Divine Mercy University emphasizes the importance of sustaining the particular pastoral needs for those serving in the military,” said Dr. Mark Moitoza, Vice Chancellor for Evangelization for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. “The focus on psychological and spiritual healing, through the lens of our Catholic tradition, promotes both individual and communal growth.
“Extending tuition discounts prepares men and women who understand the culture of military life to care for those in need. Through compassion, experience, and knowledge they will serve to bridge the multiple experiences of alienation caused by trauma. The Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, is grateful to the Divine Mercy University staff and donors who generously support these crucial efforts.”
Long adds there is an added benefit for students with a military background to be able to serve fellow service members and their unique needs.
“Reservists face the stresses of work and family, effects of active-duty service and multiple deployments, and responsibilities to their unit but often lack the close and apparent support system that might be found in an active-duty environment. It can be more difficult for leaders to monitor soldier well–being,” she shared.
She will use her doctorate to work as a military psychologist. And since graduating, Kitenko has been working in a human capital strategies billet at Coast Guard Headquarters. She says earning a degree from Divine Mercy University was worth the effort.
“College or graduate school is an investment of your time and intellect, but you will reap the benefits not only on your resume and post-military career, but also as a wife, husband, or parent,” she added.
Visit https://divinemercy.edu/militaryfamilies to learn more about Divine Mercy University’s programs for military-connected students.