Since joining the United States Air Force at age 20, David Williams has spent much of his professional career in active military duty working as an aircraft mechanic. When he started planning ahead for a future career outside the military, he gave careful thought to the school and program that would both help him prepare and allow him to work around the logistics of his service duties.
“I work on the C-130J airplane that conducts search and rescue missions. The military has moved us many times — I grew up in Pennsylvania, but I’ve lived in Arizona, Japan and now southern Georgia. I graduated in May of this year, and I am still 6 months out from completing my service requirement, but [my family and I are] happy to call home everywhere that we have lived,” he said.
A graduate of the class of 2021, Williams first began his degree in 2018 while stationed overseas in Japan. He said when he was searching for the right school, it was Trevecca’s flexibility as well as its commitment to connection and service that stood out to him.
“Trevecca was one of the few schools that offered a complete doctorate of education program 100 percent online. This was extremely important because of not knowing exactly when or where I would be in the future. It is difficult to plan around the unknown, but when I was researching and speaking with different schools, Trevecca was the one that already treated me as part of the family and program. I felt welcomed and comfortable. The enrollment specialist was able to answer all of my questions quickly and thoroughly,” Williams said.
Now as a graduate of the doctor of education in leadership program, Williams is working in partnership with the Department of Defense and the Troops to Teachers program, which is aimed at preparing service members to transition from the military to classrooms serving low-income families.
Williams explained that much of his work experience as an aircraft mechanic won’t directly translate to his work in the classroom. The Troops to Teachers program, as well as his cohort members and professors at Trevecca, are helping him make connections between his current work leading troops with his future work leading classrooms.
“They will help me obtain my secondary education certification so I may teach in a high school setting. I am also looking at careers in the instructional design area to help teachers incorporate technology into everyday practices,” he said. “Transitioning into the education field after the military is not simple, but [with the support of Trevecca, the Troops to Teachers program, and my family], I am taking everything one step at a time and following the path that is before me.”
Dr. Ryan Longnecker, associate professor of leadership studies at Trevecca, served as Williams’ instructor, program leader and advisor during Williams’ time in the program, and Longnecker said Williams approached the program with precision and a drive to succeed.
“There was just this drive David had to take the feedback we gave him, deliver the absolute best project and get it done on time. He was very dedicated, and he trusted the entire process,” Longnecker said. “Studies show that we are going to switch professions three to five times during our lifetimes, and hopefully, this program has given David a foundation of skills that he can take with him wherever he goes.”
Williams said his experience at Trevecca was better than he’d first expected. Between the overall organization of the program and smaller details like a monthly dissertation digest sent by Longnecker to students, Williams said even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t derail the experience.
“Some of the greatest moments were collaborating with others on assignments, though sometimes I had to wake up at 3 a.m. due to the time difference in Japan, overcoming my own doubts and completing tasks that I never thought I could, like passing statistics and writing a dissertation,” he said. “The program moved through every week despite the pandemic, and even with four kids at home, things went smoothly. There were times that I had to write four to 10 pages in a weekend, and during these times, my wife Chihiro would take the children out for the day so I could work. Our kids were always my motivation for me to finish the program, and I hope when they grow older, they can be proud of the person I am and what I have accomplished for them.”
To learn more about Trevecca’s Ed.D. program, visit www.trevecca.edu/edd. More information about Trevecca’s offerings and support for military service members can be found at www.trevecca.edu/military.
Media Contact: Brian Bennett