Imagine you want to earn a degree but you’ve just been posted to Afghanistan.
For members of Canada’s Armed Forces, balancing work, family and study takes on an added dimension– when even applying to the university and registering for courses on time seems impossible. The irregular hours, constant training and travel, common in the military, can test the resolve of even the most motivated adult learner.
For Sgt. Cameron Bois of Winnipeg, the Military Support Office (MSO) at the University of Manitoba was indispensable in helping him complete a degree. The goal of the MSO is to assist Canadian Forces personnel (regular and reserve), retired members, civilian employees of the Department of National Defence, and their families, in pursuing degree study, largely through Distance and Online Education. “I chose the University of Manitoba because of the support they offered to members of the armed forces. MSO staff walked me through the process and I was able to register in time over the phone from Afghanistan. They were one of my best supporters, especially if exams needed to be deferred or assignments handed in late.”
Many of the skills Bois learned in the military, like time management, helped him in his studies. Members of the military also contribute to their classes because of their varied experiences. In an archaeology course, he added an interesting perspective to the class discussion since he had travelled to many of the sites studied.
Like many armed forces members, Bois was looking to his future as well as the present when he chose to do his degree. He agrees that a more educated force benefits the military directly, especially in filling leadership roles.
Bois says once members of the military realize the MSO is there to help them, many decide to pursue their degree. Master Warrant Officer Ian Smith, another member of the military in Ottawa, recently completed his Bachelor of Arts degree by distance while employed full time in the Canadian Forces. He echoed Bois’s praise of the MSO staff, “They made what at times seemed like a daunting task a lot easier. Whenever any of my colleagues asks about post-secondary education I always suggest the
University of Manitoba and the support I received has a lot to do with that.”
Bois was so grateful for the support he received from the MSO that he recently nominated them for a special citation. In spring of 2009 at a ceremony at McGregor Amory, the Canadian Forces Liaison Council presented a Citation to Distance and Online Education’s Military Support Office (MSO) in recognition of academic advisory services provided to members of the Canadian Forces Reserves. Cheryl McLean, Director of Distance and Online Education accepted it on behalf of MSO.
In 2009, the Military Support office marks its 35th year serving Canadian Forces personnel studying part-time around the world.