Michael Monaghan enrolled in the Master of Infrastructure Planning & Management to help his career growth in the Army National Guard. Here, Michael talks about the online learning experience, the knowledge and skills he developed in the program and the value of the degree for his career.
Why did you decide to earn the Master of Infrastructure Planning & Management?
One of the reasons I picked this degree is because it's closely related to one of the things the National Guard does, and that's help out in the community in cases of natural disaster or emergency.
What about the program was most valuable for you?
The knowledge I took out of it. I'm not going to be in the military forever; when I retire from the military, I'll be looking for something else. I'm planning on taking this education and combining it with my military experience and finding a good job in the civilian sector.
In the civilian sector, I can do risk assessment at a business or in city government, work for FEMA, be a city planner or work in emergency management. There are tons of opportunities based on what I did in this program. Combine it with my military work experience, and I think the sky's the limit when I start job hunting.
Were there any classes that you found especially helpful for your current career?
Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, Infrastructure Finance, and Emergency Management. Those classes fit right into what the National Guard does if we get called upon to serve.
Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis taught us about the law and lessons learned from major events. September 11 is obviously one of the big events where we got to test all of our systems, and the oil spill a few years ago down in the Gulf of Mexico.
It's important to understand the finances because federal money and state money can't always mix. Sometimes they have distinct purposes. We learned how communities plan their budgets for contingency or disaster-type operations.
In the emergency management class, it's really important to learn the terminology and how emergency professionals work together, such as firefighters, ambulance drivers and police officers. It helped teach me how they operate and think.
Were you able to apply your learning to your work while you were in the program?
When I enrolled in the program, my full-time job was doing contingency planning and working on responses to either natural disasters or terrorist attacks. I was applying some of the knowledge I learned to that. Toward the tail-end of the program, I was reassigned and deployed for a year to Kuwait.
Were the instructors flexible regarding your deployment?
They were remarkably helpful. I really appreciated their effort to work with us. My friend in the program was in exactly the same situation. We talked with our professor and worked out a good schedule to finish everything. She was very flexible – I felt like we got a lot of individual attention.
The online aspect of the program was ideal for my deployment. While overseas, I continued to have access to the program materials and to the instructors. I truly appreciate the fact that I did not have to put my education on hold while I was deployed.
Can you tell us more about the online learning experience?
I enjoyed it because it was structured. I've heard horror stories about online programs where people say you have to stay motivated because they just dump a group of assignments on you and you've got 8 or 10 weeks to finish them.
This program wasn't like that – there were hard deadlines throughout. I knew when I had to do reading assignments and write papers or when I had to post on the discussion forum by a certain time. I was initially apprehensive, but the fact that it was structured was very helpful to keep me on task.
How did you interact with other students?
Several of the courses had a lot of group work, so we would set up Skype sessions and use online collaborative tools like Google Drive. People in a group could be working on the same document simultaneously while they're all talking on Skype. It felt like I knew most of the folks in the program even though we'd never been face to face, which is pretty remarkable.
What did the instructors bring to the program?
The instructors were phenomenal. Each of them was an expert in the field that they taught. For example, the emergency management professor, that's what he does for a living. The finance instructor, that's what she does for a living. They've got the professional knowledge and expertise to teach the book answer and the practical experience to back it up.
What would you say to somebody who's thinking about taking this program?
It's a great program, especially for folks that work in emergency management, city planning, risk mitigation or disaster planning. Definitely a great program for anybody in the National Guard because sooner or later, unfortunately, disaster will strike and the National Guard will get called to help handle it.
I worked with the Veterans Center at UW and they made sure that everything was in order financially for me. The program was very military friendly, and it worked for me financially because of the GI Bill.
I was very excited that the University of Washington had the kind of program I was looking for, which fit right into my profession and will help me as I progress through the workforce. I can't be more thrilled to be a graduate of the University of Washington.