Alumnus Soars

Online degree boosts post-Air Force career

Alumnus Soars

By Julie Carle

Robert Gauthier was trained in technology, space and missile systems in the U.S. Air Force.

In 2009, he started working at the Pentagon in a “one-deep position… and the only individual with hands-on experience working on the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), specifically the Minuteman III weapon system.” His work led to many “very interesting, and at times, highly classified discussions in my job,” Gauthier said.

Having spent his entire career in the military, before retiring as a Senior Master Sergeant (E-8) he decided to advance his education and career by completing a bachelor’s degree. At about the same time he retired from the Air Force in October 2013, he received a Bachelor of Science in Technology degree from BGSU, though he never stepped foot on the campus. His degree in learning design and technology (LDT) was done completely online and during times that were convenient for him to “attend classes.”

In part, he chose BGSU from a list of universities that was provided by the Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative Program (AU-ABC) because he recognized the name of the University as the alma mater of Andrew Kovich ’91, one of his former commanders.

Upon further examination, he discovered the University’s online program in learning design and technology (formerly Advanced Technological Education) would be a perfect fit. The online classes allowed him the flexibility to work his military job during the day, coach his two sons after work, enjoy family time in the evening and “go to class from about 10-11:30 at night,” he said.

Additionally, the program was ideal for his post-military plans, which required a bachelor’s degree, and strong problem solving and analytical skills, as well as an understanding of computer systems. He was hired last fall as a security analyst for a private, international research and engineering company.

Online format offers flexibility, quality

Because Gauthier had trained and worked in the Air Force for 19 years before he decided to pursue his BS degree, he was nervous about taking university classes online. His fears were quickly alleviated by the course instructors in the program. “I was put at ease right out of the gate,” he said. There was frequent back-and-forth communications with questions, conversations about issues and interactions by everyone involved, creating a sense of community and camaraderie.

The program is open to anyone wishing to complete a bachelor’s degree in learning design and technology. With BGSU being named one of the top 20 Best for Vets campuses, the LDT program is ideal for active-duty military personnel. It is designed to teach skills that can be applied in virtually any type of work environment. The AU-ABC program offers high-quality, accredited online learning opportunities.

Similar to his job where he had to assess the value, importance, and quality of information before making decisions, he found those same skills were required for the class assignments and discussions. Through the classes, he learned new skills, such as technology forecasting, and honed the skills he already used in work – problem solving, decision making and communication.

“Assessing the value, importance and quality of information presented, and evaluating results to choose the best solution or course of action has been a big part of the program and my every day workload,” Gauthier said.

"My learning outcomes following my experiences in BGSU’s learning design and technology program have given me new perspective on my life’s journey.”“I have worked with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Joint Staff and Sister Services on nuclear weapons maintenance anomalies, and they all come with their own communication processes and procedures,” he explained. “Assisting classmates with problems they encountered and discussing problems I came up against with others allowed for great back and forth conversations and learning.”

Forecasting technologies was one of the best skills he learned, and something that assists him daily. “Determining demand and consequences of implementing not only technologies, but policies, rules and regulations, give the entire view of a project,” he said. He could use examples, obstacles and overall experiences that classmates were involved with to help him avoid similar pitfalls and further explore the good ideas. “Normally, I would not be exposed to that type of learning.

“I have had experiences that have seen great heights and great lows. My learning outcomes following my experiences in BGSU’s learning design and technology program have given me new perspective on my life’s journey.”

Changed philosophy

Earning a bachelor’s degree was not always his goal, Gauthier admitted. “I always had the philosophy that the military had trained and educated me, and I thought that was good enough.”

Once he realized the importance of education, and how many more doors would open for him if he earned a bachelor’s degree, he made that his philosophy and his mission.

“If I had not earned this degree then the job offers I received after retirement from the Air Force would never have been offered. My wife and I both completed our degrees, which allowed our two boys to see this before their eyes on a daily basis. We preach higher education and college as a great opportunity following high school.”

If he were to put his philosophy on a bumper sticker it would read: Never become complacent and realize that there is always more to learn, no matter the situation.