U.S. Marine Earns Online Degree After Serving Abroad

NC State belltower and the American Flag.

Photo by Roger Winstead.

Chris Green embodied the slogan “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” used by the United States Marine Corps in his approach to conquering the Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) B.A. online degree-completion program. Since starting his classes in spring of 2020 he has experienced a multitude of academic disruptions as a student at NC State while living and working in Twentynine Palms, CA.

“Finding the balance between full-time work, family and completing a college degree is never easy. For me, I cannot say I ever found a real balance between the three. Work often took priority over studies especially when it involved the lives of my Marines or my obligations as a sexual assault victim advocate. Other times, my family took priority, such as when my daughter had an appendectomy at the same time that we were temporarily moving out of our home due to a water leak. While finding the balance can be difficult, advanced planning by developing routines helped me to allocate adequate time to focus on my studies — which always paid off,” he said. 

Green acknowledged those were some of the most extreme examples of disruptions. However, everyone experiences issues in their daily lives which interfere with dedicated study time. He is grateful for the NC State faculty and staff who assisted him in navigating his way through his coursework. They often accommodated his concerns with compassion and understanding, which helped him to succeed.

If you are wondering what led such a well-traveled person to choose NC State, it’s because Green grew up in Havelock, North Carolina. Prior to enrolling in the LPS program, he received his Associate in Arts degree from Craven Community College while living in Uzbekistan, Hungary and Japan. Now, he lives in Twentynine Palms, Calif. on a Marine base (MAGTFTC/MCAGCC). He had been serving as a leader in the U.S. Marine Corps since he joined in July 2001 after graduating from Havelock High School.

As an Accomplished Leader, Why Enroll in the LPS Program?

Green was attracted to the program because he believed it would “fill voids of his leadership knowledge and help him to enhance” his development as a leader. He focused his studies on leadership, development and research which were very useful to him in his current role. 

Other electives he selected were also impactful, such as ones with topics like terrorism, international studies, non-profit organizations and advanced military leadership theory. 

“My classwork really helped me to understand how the material I learned in my courses could be applied to leadership roles in the public sector. If I had to classify this program for any leader interested in furthering their collegiate career, I would say the program presents an eye-opening look at elements of leadership not often thought of by any one person,” Green added.

He firmly believes we all have an amazing opportunity to influence other people through our actions as leaders. In fact, Green said this belief has enthusiastically driven his approach to guide those he leads daily in the Marine Corps.

“The LPS program stood out to me as being the ideal degree to enhance my abilities as a leader for future federal government and other public sector employment opportunities,” he said. “There is a stark difference between overseeing others as an effective manager and being a knowledgeable, influential leader. This degree program’s advertisement as being military-friendly and available fully online further cemented my decision to pursue this degree.”

Green explained one of the unofficial roles a Marine holds is to help develop the leaders who follow them. This often occurs in the form of mentorship. He said his new skills acquired through the LPS program have already permitted him to help his peers navigate leadership challenges.

LPS Programmatic Support and Advice

Green is grateful for the faculty and staff who directed him through the program — especially Program Advisor LaShica Waters, Ph.D., who offered guidance, flexibility and wisdom during his journey. “The courses I took with Assistant Extension Professor Frank Perry held a great impact on my thoughts on public sector leadership. His efforts in relating topics discussed to his personal experiences in public leadership roles were exceptionally informative. The course development of Assistant Teaching Professor Daniel Bolger, LTG, USA, Retired, in his Advanced Military Leadership Theory class was highly effective in echoing military leadership thoughts from author John Keegan’s The Mask of Command in an inspirational way. As a retired senior military leader himself, his relatability to the subject at hand made complex subjects easy to digest by a varied audience of students. Lastly, Teaching Assistant Professor Amanda Edwards’ interaction and engagement with students during the Leadership in the Public and Non-Profit Sectors Capstone was exceptional. Her direction was instrumental in gaining a full appreciation for the culminating course for this degree,” he said.

Green takes great pride in the bachelor’s degree he earned from NC State. He encourages other working professionals interested in furthering their education to “take up the challenge” and pursue an online degree.

“Receiving a degree is much more than fulfilling a prerequisite to employment and putting a check in a block on a résumé. It is the formal proactive expansion of knowledge in areas not previously pursued. It is a mark of success for others to see, yet, a mark of success and achievement for yourself. We all encounter life stresses while taking college courses and time can become very difficult to manage. However, once you begin, I recommend always taking at least one class every semester. You will achieve your goals in time. Don’t make the excuse that you do not have time for college. Don’t give up. Your dreams are possible, and you can do it,” Green said.

He will be traveling from California to North Carolina to attend the commencement in May. Unfortunately, his wife and two daughters will not be attending due to their 17-year-old daughter’s AP exams taking place at the same time. However, his parents, Paul and Lynne Green, will attend the commencement and celebrate with him afterwards with a barbecue. 

“After returning to California, I will continue to celebrate my graduation with my family and friends by hosting another barbecue — smoked pulled pork eastern North Carolina style — of course,” Green said.

Are you interested in completing your bachelor’s degree or advancing your career with a degree from NC State Online? Visit the program pages and online.ncsu.edu for a full list of degree and certificate programs.