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Online master’s program extended to captains

 


MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — Air University officials here will offer eligible mid-level Air Force captains a unique educational opportunity to enroll in an online master’s degree beginning this December.

The degree is designed to be career-relevant and is intended to accommodate the current high operations tempo environment, said Dr. Bart Kessler, the Air Command and Staff College distance learning dean.

The expansion to eligible captains builds on the success of the online master’s program for majors. The new option offers tailored professional education opportunities and expands those opportunities to a limited number of mid-level captains.

Since its inception two years ago, 348 majors have graduated with master’s of military operational art and science degrees through the online program. More than 1,000 students are currently enrolled.

“Including captains in the online master’s program is an exciting expansion of an exceptionally successful program,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Rock, the ACSC commandant. “These officers have earned a degree that is directly related to their Air Force mission in a rigorous, interactive, Web-based environment. Many of them have done this from forward-deployed locations without any disruptive break in their education. Opening the program to captains is the next logical step as we look for innovative ways to deliver professional military education and continuing education opportunities to our warfighters.”

Kessler said the current program will provide a common core curriculum supported by multiple areas of concentration. The existing online program consists of 11 eight-week courses that total 33 credit hours and reflect the educational outcomes of the ACSC residential program. From this program, seven of the existing online courses (21 credit hours) form the core curriculum required of all students, with the remaining 12 credit hours forming various concentrations directed toward specific professional development. The first of these new concentrations, the “Leadership Concentration,” was designed by Squadron Officer College to meet the developmental needs of captains.

Dr. Matthew Stafford, the academic adviser to the commandant at Squadron Officer College, explained that the four courses are specifically designed to meet developmental requirements outlined by the Air Staff. They will address foundations of officership, team-building and organizational leadership, as well as expeditionary leadership in an intercultural environment.

Col. Steve Tanous, the Squadron Officer College commandant, added that the program is a “unique opportunity” for captains to further their professional development while earning a master’s degree, all in time for their next promotion board. He noted that captains with six to seven years of commissioned service who have completed Squadron Officer School either in residence or through distance learning, but do not yet have a master’s degree, will be eligible to apply for the program.

Lt. Col. Robert Lass, the ACSC vice dean of distance learning, said this is a win-win situation for both airmen and the Air Force because the program meets their needs simultaneously.

“This is an amazing opportunity. To offer captains this level of targeted professional military education this early in their career, says a lot about how seriously the Air Force takes PME,” he said.

Lass said the program will begin modestly, with limited enrollment accepting approximately 100 captains in a “beta test” for its first term. However, captains will have the opportunity to apply each eight-week term. The number of slots available may increase in subsequent terms based on resource availability.

Both Lass and Kessler highlighted to potential applicants that this is a rigorous master’s program that requires between 10-15 hours of work per week. Kessler added that the program moves rapidly, requires significant student commitment and is substantially more challenging than the traditional correspondence approach to PME.

The application window for the first term will open Dec. 2. Students will be notified by Dec. 10 if they are among the first Leadership Concentration students. Students apply through the Air University portal and classes begin Jan. 4.

Lass said that the online master’s program Web site at http://www.au.af.mil/au/dlmasters.asp is the essential link in helping students stay abreast of updates and specific guidance.

“That Web site is critical because as the program evolves and changes, this site will be the focal point for that information,” he said.

“This master’s degree program drives individuals to think critically about the challenges we face as a nation at war in a highly dynamic strategic environment,” said Lt. Gen. Allen G. Peck, the Air University commander.

 
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