Graduate, Master of Defense and Strategic Studies
Command Sergeant Major Paul “Mike” Jones is currently serving as an assault helicopter battalion in the U.S. Army. He has earned a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management and Logistics in addition to a Master of Defense and Strategic Studies from UTEP.
Mike spent his childhood dividing his time between his separated parents. His father's military service caused him to move a lot, so he didn't have a place to call home prior to joining the military. Since 2001, Mike has spent 19 out of 21 years in Clarksville, Tennessee and now proudly calls Tennessee home.
With over 30 short-tour deployments, Mike’s primary interests are focused on his family as he feels he has a lot of family time to make up for. Other interests include reading and studying history, which led to his enrollment in the Strategic Studies program at UTEP.
Mike graduated from UTEP in May 2020.
Why he enrolled in the program:
To be completely honest, I enrolled in this program only because it interested me. I had, and still have, no interest in pursuing a career in strategic studies after the military. Since I like history so much, and given my occupation, the thought of potentially understanding why nation states go to war intrigued me.
His experience with online learning:
This was not my first experience with online learning. I earned my bachelor’s degree by attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) online. Learning online at UTEP was about as pleasurable as online learning can possibly be and was far superior to ERAU, but I will also cherish my in-person learning with the phenomenal professors at UTEP for the rest of my life. It was an honor and a pleasure beyond my ability to articulate. Dr. Paul Ashby will forever be my most cherished mentor.
I have never been a fan of online learning. There are too many distractions in settings that take place behind a screen, and it diminishes the value of the collaborative discussion. I think it takes a very special and gifted individual to orchestrate discussion in an online setting, but somehow Dr. Ashby found a way, as he always does. It was difficult, though; it took knowing your students and knowing when they were not participating as much as they typically would have in the classroom, and then calling on them when he instinctively knew they had more to say than they were putting on. Despite these challenges, I got all I had hoped to get out of this degree and more – I wanted a better understanding of global conflict and the associated strategies, both historically and [in the] present day.
On how this degree has helped him in his job:
My degree plays a part in my current employment because it helps me to provide a better understanding of why we might be doing what we are doing militarily around the world. It has long been said, and rings true currently, that soldiers will always perform better when they understand the "why" behind what they are to do. Furthermore, it provides for better mental health; when soldiers can have a logical theory to contemplate, instead of feeling as though their lives are risked for an illogical power grab, it gives their life more meaning. Having attended this course has put me in a position where I, as a leader, can significantly raise the morale by providing clarity.
On the support he received as a student:
While enrolled, I had all the support I needed and more. It was a truly enjoyable experience. It was very difficult, but in the most rewarding way. It is likely my flaw, and not the institutions', but I do not remember much from my studies at ERAU or the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA). Conversely, I remember every single day of attendance at UTEP. I was eager to get to class every single night and will forever be grateful for the memories I took with me.
On whether he would enroll in this program again if he had to do things over:
No question, and with no hesitation, I would enroll in this program again! I loved every second of my time studying defense and strategic studies, and I cherish the camaraderie that I had with our UTEP team and family. I made lifelong friends that I still speak to routinely, both students and staff. It has significantly helped my work life and personal life alike. No matter what I attempt to say about this fantastic program and remarkable University, it could never do justice to its authentic magnificence. GO MINERS!!!
What he would say to prospective online students:
The most important thing I would like prospective students to know about this program is that it is not a waste of time. There are a great many times in my life that I have felt I have wasted precious moments that I will never get back. I would venture to say that everyone can relate to that. This program is so absolutely rewarding throughout the entire duration, and it echoes through my life daily. Every single day I see events happening around the world, and it is no longer static noise – I see it with clarity, and it makes my mind start attempting to understand the motivations of the metaphorical chess players among the nation states. Leaders can not only provide clarity for their teams, but they can also turn otherwise annoyances into sources of entertainment. Throughout our lives, we make investments that are gambles without a guarantee. This program is a guaranteed positive return on investment.