Celebrating Two Psychology Grads on Military Spouse Appreciation Day
Each year on Military Spouse Appreciation Day, historically the Friday before Mother’s Day, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) celebrates its military spouse community. Among more than 1,600 military-affiliated graduates at this year’s spring Commencement were two military spouses who are now one step closer to reaching their goals.
For many people, getting a college degree is a beneficial and rewarding accomplishment. It can provide you the opportunity to advance in your career field or begin a career you maybe never thought possible. Earning a degree is also empowering and often a personal goal many military spouses put on hold as they support their service members through deployments and continued moves.
This way of life, moving from state to state – or even to a new country – often while being their children’s primary caretakers, leaves little time for a traditional college experience.
At SNHU, military spouses are provided the opportunity to put their education first. They can get their online degree on their own time and wherever military life takes them.
SNHU partners several times a year with Operation Homefront, a nonprofit organization that supports strong, stable and secure military families, to award full-tuition scholarships to military spouses to assist them in achieving their academic goals.
Victoria White ’22G, a regional director of Military Alliances at SNHU, is one of the team members that works closely with Operation Homefront and surprises these military spouses with their scholarship awards. As a military spouse herself, she knows the sacrifices made all too well. In 2020, one of the scholarships she helped present went to Shaquita Callier ’22, and today both women now hold degrees.
‘My Goals Are Within Arm's Reach’
Shaquita Callier has been a military spouse for 10 years, as her husband, Jacorian, is a U.S. Marine. His work in the Marine Corps has made life unpredictable and taken his family around the world.
"Being a military family, it's hard to predict what's next, so you learn to enjoy the present," Callier said.
As the primary caretaker of their four children and with the constant wonder of when and where her family may be off to next, prioritizing her own goals and earning her degree seemed out of reach – until she found an online, military-friendly university where she could earn her degree at her own pace. And, once Callier got started, there was no stopping her.
With all the sacrifices military families make to serve the country, it can be easy to become complacent, said Callier, but she understands the importance of education and wants to set an example for her children.
"Education is important because it helps to find your identity, so you don't lose who you are. I wanted to be in a position of influence and to be able to (contribute) to society,” she said.
Before beginning her program, Callier believed her career goals were out of her reach, but any doubts she may have had have since gone out the window.
"My goals seemed farfetched. Where I am today, though, my goals are within arm's reach," Callier said. "My determination has not faltered throughout the program. I have remained hungry and eager since day one."
Callier now holds her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. When she first began her degree, her dream was to become a child psychologist one day. However, through her education, she shifted her career goals; she now hopes to become a clinical psychologist.
As a first-generation college graduate, she said, submitting her final assignment for her bachelor’s degree was an important moment and surreal accomplishment. Callier wanted her family to be present, as she credits her husband as her biggest supporter.
"He pushed me beyond my own self-doubt and helped me break down the barriers of inadequacies that were built up in my mind since I was a little child,” said Callier. "He really is my biggest supporter, and I'm very blessed to have him."
Leading the way for her children through her actions and not only her words was important to Callier as she did not have the same role models growing up.
"I did not see a better life back then as I do now because I did not feel I had anything to work toward. I did not have the best examples to emulate, so now I strive and make it my purpose to be an example for others," she said.
With her bachelor's degree now in hand and newfound confidence, Callier has no plans to stop her educational journey and continues to reach higher.
"Everything I have done was working toward this moment," Callier said. "Now that I have completed this degree, I have the willpower to push through to my master's and doctoral degrees."
Showing Up for Herself and Her Future
The military has always been a part of Victoria White's life. Her father and brother both served in the U.S. Army, and her husband is a U.S. Marine. She also devotes her career to helping military service members, spouses and veterans further their education at SNHU.
White was attending a brick-and-mortar university when she married her husband during her sophomore year. Shortly after, her husband received his first orders, which would occur before she could graduate. She soon realized she would have to finish her degree another way.
"I quickly learned that a flexible, online platform was the best option for me due to the uncertainty of the military lifestyle," said White. "I also pivoted in changing my degree because I needed a portable career."
Before White had the chance to switch to online education, life had other plans for her. First, she learned she and her husband were expecting their first child. They also learned they were being stationed somewhere new and would soon be packing up to move again. Her husband also experienced a work-related injury and then received orders for a special assignment requiring 70 hours of work per week.
Instead of allowing these life changes to diminish her personal goals, White decided to adjust and set ones that were more manageable. She said, "I had to change my perspective to improve my outcome."
Once White finally finished her bachelor's degree in psychology at an online university, she decided to move straight into her master's program at SNHU. Again, however, she encountered obstacles.
After starting her master's degree, White and her family experienced three additional permanent changes of stations (PCS), one of which was overseas. They lost loved ones, bought a house and moved across the country, all during a global pandemic.
White's father always made a point to encourage his children to get an education; White took that to heart and despite many adversities, she has persisted.
This year, White finished her Master of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Her degree is already helping her in her role at SNHU. "I have gained knowledge and skills that can be applied to both leadership and being a collaborative team member," White said.
When she first started her master's degree, she hoped to one day open an organizational consulting office, but her dreams pivoted as she found another area within the field that she was passionate about.
"My capstone was about the effect of the military lifestyle on military spouse unemployment and underemployment," she said. "I would love to help reduce the unemployment rate for military spouses that is due to the nature of their spouse's career."
White is already doing this in her work today as she supports the needs of military students at SNHU, helping them achieve their degrees and move forward with their professional and personal goals.
"The biggest need for every learner is support, and this is an obstacle for military spouses because we are rarely stationed near family, and we have to establish new relationships every 2-3 years,” said White.
White has been lucky enough to have had that support from her family and professors during her journey.
"My husband has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter," said White. “I dedicated many weekends to homework instead of fun family activities, and he was always understanding. He also took on more responsibilities when I (had) a large course load.”
Throughout her program, White felt accomplished each week as she turned in another assignment. “It may seem small, but every week that I showed up for myself and for my future was huge," she said.
Now, with a master's degree, White is ready to use the knowledge she’s gained to continue her work supporting military spouses.
"I feel more capable of accomplishing my goals," said White. “Completing my degree means that I made it, and I can do hard things.”
Reaching the Finish Line Together
While beginning their own degrees at SNHU Callier and White never expected to be celebrating their academic achievements with one another, but as their paths aligned, they were able to finish their psychology degrees together.
"Finishing my goal and celebrating alongside such a phenomenal fellow Marine Corps spouse and mom means the world to me," White said about graduating with Callier.
Military spouses face challenges unique to their lifestyle and it can often be isolating, White said. But military spouses can bond with each other over deployments, special assignments and other experiences they may face in a military family – and today, White and Callier have another connection.
They are both college graduates.
A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.
Alexa Gustavsen '21 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.
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