Scholarship Recipient Aspires to Empower Other Military Spouses
For Bonnie Conrad, confidence is key in her life as a military spouse and a vehicle for her career. “I like the saying: ‘Fake it until you make it,’” she said.
But there's nothing fake about the way she's focusing on her goals.
Marketing and its ability to create and inspire excites Conrad, who works in market research for a global consulting firm. She strives to show other military spouses how they, too, can learn to reach their target audiences through marketing without needing to rely on agencies and other external creatives.
To achieve that dream, she's pushing her education forward. While homeschooling her two sons during the global pandemic, Conrad earned an associate degree. Then, as she determined her next steps, the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree online with a full-tuition scholarship presented itself.
She knew she had to apply.
Game-Changing Access to Online Education
Earlier this month, Conrad became the 37th military spouse to receive a full-tuition scholarship to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). SNHU partners with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit dedicated to serving America's military families, several times per year to award scholarships to military spouses.
“Operation Homefront and SNHU share the belief that military families, who sacrifice so much on behalf of all Americans, should be celebrated,” said Jenny Valderas, a senior director of family support services at Operation Homefront. “Bonnie was elated to receive the SNHU scholarship and couldn’t wait to share the news with her family. This opportunity allows her to further her education and open doors for what we know will be a bright future for her.”
Conrad’s husband, who facilitates training details for his unit in the U.S. Army, is proud of his wife as she embarks on her bachelor's degree. “He has always been my number one cheerleader in anything I try,” she said.
College doesn't always seem feasible to military spouses, who take on the role of supporter as their service members fulfill their duties. “Our job as military spouses is to ensure the household is running (smoothly) so our soldiers can focus on their mission and not have to worry about what’s going on at home,” she said. Sometimes that means being their children’s primary caregiver. It can involve frequent moves across the country and around the world. It also often leads to military spouses putting the needs of their family and their country above their own goals.
“As spouses, we know that when our partners receive orders, we receive them too and will ultimately need to leave our friends, jobs and schools,” said Dr. Kendra Thomas, a military spouse and SNHU’s senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) for HR initiatives. “SNHU's transfer-friendly acceptance of credits from multiple moves can be a real game-changer. Having access to online degree programs changes the lives of spouses who decide to take the leap and shows them their goals are, in fact, achievable.”
For Conrad, being selected as the scholarship recipient positions her one step closer to her goal of using her education to support other military spouses.
Melissa Escobar-Pereira, SNHU’s regional director of university partnerships, said the scholarship committee received many outstanding applications, but Conrad’s stood out the most. “What really put Bonnie over the top was the clear goal and intent behind her decision to continue her education. She knows her “why,” and it came through in her application response,” Escobar-Pereira said. “After meeting Bonnie in person and chatting with her about her aspirations, it became even more clear that she’s going to do amazing things with her degree. I can’t wait to see where she goes.”
Building a Portable Career That Fits Her Lifestyle
Because of the volatile nature of military life, military spouses must be adaptable and flexible. Conrad has moved with the military seven times in nearly a dozen years. As a result, she's undergone several career changes.
“I have worked in the medical field, the hospitality field, retail, and now I work in market research for a cutting-edge, net-zero-focused global consulting firm,” she said. “I have had lots of opportunities to figure out where I want to take my career.”
Conrad also dedicates an hour each week to professional development, exploring tasks and programs that interest her. “These workshops can be things like how to create a captivating email campaign or how to put together an effective online business plan for a small business with different customer relationship management platforms,” she said.
With the help of a bachelor's degree in marketing, she plans to develop workshops of her own. “My goal is to be able to turn my education into workshops to assist other military spouses in marketing their small businesses in the most effective and efficient way possible,” she said.
This portable career will allow her to bring her work wherever the military takes her and connect her professional world with her unique personal life.
Life as a military spouse is “an adventure,” Conrad said. It's opened her up to perspectives, places and cultures once unfamiliar to her and introduced her to new friends.
With every move her family of four makes comes a new tight-knit community of families who understand her lifestyle. “Your neighbors become your emergency contacts for your kids at school the day you move into your house,” Conrad said. “Everyone is more than happy to jump in when you need (them) with things like help picking up kids or cooking a meal for you when you need extra support.”
She believes her bachelor's degree will unlock a new way to support the community of working military spouses around her. And there are two important people even closer to home she hopes to inspire by going back to school: Her sons. “I think it is important for me to show my kids that I can achieve any goals I put my mind to,” she said. "Right now, I want to keep moving forward, and in order to do that, I need to further my education."
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Rebecca LeBoeuf ’18 is a writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
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About Southern New Hampshire University
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.