Rasmussen College student Stephen Anderson has covered a lot of miles before coming to the Blaine campus to earn his degree in accounting.
After high school, he briefly attended college but dropped out to spend five years in the Navy serving as a Master at Arms – the naval equivalent of military police. In the Navy, he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan and Charleston, S.C., and spent a lot of time on temporary orders traveling to pick up military prisoners from around the world. After finishing his military career, he spent time working a variety of jobs, including a stint as a freelance music composer. While he had some success with music (his work can be found in several video games) he realized he needed to do something more to get where he wanted to be in life.
“The military got me ramped up and ready to get a real job, but with the way the job market and the economy crashed it ended up being a big wake-up call,” Anderson said.
Anderson then spoke with a friend who was working as a recruiter for the military to learn more about the educational benefits available to him in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which he encourages all veterans to do.
“Talk to your Veterans Affairs rep, figure out what your benefits are and go from there,” Anderson said. “I was in a position where I was stuck in a dead-end job and I didn’t know what the VA had to offer. It ended up costing me a couple of years where I could have been done with school in 2010.”
Veteran turned student
Transitioning from military life to student life can be difficult for some, and Anderson wasn’t without his moments of frustration. After Anderson and some of his classmates had struggled in an earlier accounting course, his next instructor took the time to make sure everybody was up to speed.
“The first day of class we all kind of bum rushed the teacher saying we needed help,” Anderson said. “She (the instructor) spent some time right away getting us all back on track, so after that first little hurdle I was good.”
Anderson also leaned on the academic support offered at Rasmussen College to help his transition into student life.
“When I started out, I was just about ready to call it quits on the accounting program,” Anderson said. “I ended up using the academic support quite a bit just so I could get my feet wet and start figuring out what I needed to be doing."
He continued, "As soon as I walked in the door here it seemed like there were seven or eight people looking to help me if I didn’t [understand] the material. That really helped, and I like being able to be one of those people now who can offer help to others that are struggling.”
Military Discipline Pays Off Academically
Attention to detail as well as the discipline to follow and perform very specific procedures is crucial to the success of any serviceman. For Anderson, that discipline helped him stay focused on earning his degree in accounting.
“If you didn’t get something done in the military, you would be up for a non-judicial punishment, usually something like 15 days of hard labor,” Anderson said. “So coming back to school and actually sticking to deadlines for assignments is really not hard compared to that. If you weren’t good at multitasking and managing your time before the military, you definitely learned quickly.”
Anderson’s time in the Navy also helped him keep his life priorities in line.
“I always knew going back to school was going to be my number one priority, no matter what,” Anderson said. “I knew that I had to get the academic stuff done first before worrying about social or work life.”
Going to school still allows for hobbies
Even though Anderson is pursuing a career in accounting, he continues to take part in his deep-seeded passion for composing music..
“(Music) is something that’s ingrained in me,” said Anderson. “My dad got me hooked on Neil Diamond as a 3-year-old. It’s hard to shake that.”
Music, according to Anderson, provides him with a creative outlet for expressing feelings about his military experience he otherwise wouldn’t say.
“Composing is more of a way for me to get some of the things I don’t say personally out in the form of art,” said Anderson. “There are a lot of things from my days in the military that are still under my skin and in my head. Music works great as a medium to get some of these things out constructively.”
Graduating in December 2013 and starting his first job in the accounting field aren’t the only milestones on Anderson’s horizon – he also plans to marry his fiancée in 2014. Anderson explained marriage was another motivational push for him to get his degree.
“We decided to wait until I’m finished [with school] before getting married so I [could] focus on just school,” said Anderson “She had caught me when I was going through a tough time and really helped provide me with the motivation to get my degree.”
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