10 QUESTIONS for:
Rebecca Allen, Yellow Ribbon Veteran Spouse
1) Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in a small farming community in Central Texas and then moved to Waco, Texas to attend Baylor University. I obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baylor and moved immediately to Houston, Texas to begin my career working for for JPMorgan Chase & Co. While at Baylor, I met Randy Allen, a fellow student and Air Force ROTC cadet, and we were married a few years after graduation. We spent our first year of marriage in San Antonio, Texas while I continued to work for JPMorgan. After a year, the military moved us to a small Air Force base in rural Turkey. After two years in Turkey, we were sent to Shaw Air Force base in South Carolina for four years, and have just been relocated to Monterey for two years while Randy attends the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute.
2) What are you studying at MIIS?
I am currently working towards my MATESOL at MIIS. It’s a perfect fit for me — my spouse’s Air Force career will require that we spend several more years overseas and a MATESOL from MIIS will enable me to pursue a fulfilling career as I move with him.
3) How would you characterize the academic environment and coursework at MIIS? Were there any surprises?
I have been blown away by my first semester at MIIS. Though the coursework and academic requirements are rigorous, the school creates a very supportive environment to help students succeed. Classes are small so students get to know each other well and create a cooperative network; faculty members are approachable and accessible. These factors have made me feel as though I have an entire team working along beside me as I pursue my degree.
4) What advice do you have for current soldiers about to make the transition back to civilian life?
My advice is to begin preparing for the transition to civilian life well in advance of your separation date. Identify your skills, talents, and goals and make a plan that outlines how you can use your qualifications to meet your goals. If you are well qualified for the career you want, begin making contacts and applying for positions before you separate. If you would like to pursue a career for which you are not yet qualified, begin looking into educational options and position yourself to start quickly after your separation.
5) What advice would you give to current soldiers thinking about graduate school? How about those thinking about coming to MIIS?
With the education benefits the military grants, I would highly encourage considering graduate school. An advanced degree will only make you more competitive in the marketplace. MIIS is an excellent school and a good fit for veterans, not only because of its international focus but also because of its participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows veterans and their spouses to stretch the benefits of the GI Bill.
6) At MIIS, foreign language proficiency is a key component of the Monterey Way. Tell us about your own foreign language skills and, if you are taking language classes here at MIIS, tell us why those might be important in your civilian life.
I have had formal education (high school through undergraduate classes) in Spanish, though I do not consider myself proficient. My spouse has achieved proficiency in Arabic and will continue to improve his language skills at the Defense Language Institute (DLI). Because we will be living and working in the Arab world, to establish credibility, I think it is extremely important that I learn the language as well, and therefore, I will also be taking courses at DLI in preparation for our future overseas assignments.
7) How would you characterize the Monterey environment?
We love our life in Monterey! We love the recreational opportunities – everything from surfing to skiing is within easy driving distance. It is a small town but there is an amazing appreciation of diversity; when walking down the sidewalks you can overhear people speaking in any number of languages and you can find a restaurant serving any type of cuisine you might want. We definitely benefit from the established military community in the area – access to the commissary, NEX, and base gym is great!
8) Tell us a little about your future career trajectory or dreams for your civilian career.
Because my husband’s career will require multiple years spent in the Arab world, my plan is to use the skills I learn in the MATESOL program to teach English as a Foreign Language while stationed with him there. I truly enjoy teaching and am looking forward to being able to provide an educational experience for those living in our host nation who want to learn or improve their English skills.
9) The Monterey Institute is, to the best of our knowledge, the only private institution in California offering nearly full tuition coverage with Yellow Ribbon. Why is this commitment important to you?
Though I had a very successful career in the corporate world, as an Air Force spouse of 8 years, I have learned that now my husband’s career must come first; we are relocated where and when needed. Unlike civilian couples, we are not able to make relocation decisions that factor in both of our careers. That said, it is important for a military spouse to have a very portable career – something than can be just as marketable in urban or rural locations in the United States as well as in an overseas environment.
10) Any advice for other spouses interested in taking advantage of these benefits?
Like me, many military spouses want to have a successful and fulfilling career, but may need to refocus our career paths because of the requirements of our spouse’s military assignments. Schools that support the military by participating in the Yellow Ribbon program help create an opportunity to allow us to do just that. Without the Yellow Ribbon program, many people (veterans and spouses) would not be able to pursue an advanced degree to either further their current career or redirect their path to accommodate the demands of military life.
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