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Eaker Center school awards first civilian associate degrees

Eaker Center emblem

The Civilian Leadership Development School at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development graduated the first class of its online Civilian Associate Degree Program. This first class of 88 students graduated 42 members on June 29, 2021, representing the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Space Force and the U.S. Army Reserve, with more close to completion. The students were awarded an associate of applied science degree in Department of the Air Force Leadership and Management Studies.

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

The Civilian Leadership Development School at the Ira C. Eaker Center for Leadership Development graduated the first class of its online Civilian Associate Degree Program.

This first class of 88 students graduated 42 members on June 29, 2021, representing the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Space Force and the U.S. Army Reserve, with more close to completion. The students were awarded an associate of applied science degree in Department of the Air Force Leadership and Management Studies.

This marks an historic event for Air University, culminating years of work to establish a new opportunity for civilians to achieve accredited associates degrees through the university, adding to its 140-plus programs that range from individual courses through PhD programs.

The civilian degree program is already proving to be a success with a graduation rate 37% higher than the national average of associate degree programs, according to communitycollege.com. 

The program had 475 applicants and will be able to support up to 120 students in upcoming classes. It’s a 60 credit hour program, with 30 credits hours offered by Air University and 30 credit hours transferred from other accredited colleges and universities. The program covers leadership, management, airpower and behavioral studies. 

Much like the Community College of the Air Force degree program does for the enlisted corps, the civilian program assists Department of Defense civilians to reach their full leadership potential while providing career enhancement opportunities. The degree is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

It all started with an idea in late 2013 and early 2014 when the then-director of the Force Support Professional Development School at the Eaker Center was informed that 24% of civilians filling field grade officer-equivalent positions did not have a degree. Neither did 40% of civilians filling company grade officer-equivalent positions.  This gave credence to exploring an associate degree program for civilians. 

The process to make an idea a reality was no easy feat.

“This program would not have happened without key senior leaders making a stand for civilian development,” said Barry Waite, director of the CLDS. “Leaders like the former assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and resources who brought the initiative before the Civilian Force Development Panel and secured a ‘table slap’ heard all the way from Washington, D.C., to Montgomery, Alabama.”

Although a degree-granting program is not new to AU, this program was different from the others.

“This was a faculty that started the curriculum from scratch three years ago, and now they are seeing the benefits of what happens,” said Lt. Gen. James Hecker, AU commander and president, during the June 29 virtual commencement ceremony. “You need to be proud of yourselves.” 

Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for Air Force Manpower, Personnel and Services, and guest speaker for the commencement ceremony said, “One of the things I love about the Air Force is our rich tradition of valuing education and professional development. This commitment to develop leaders reflects a realization that building a strong warfighter core was necessary but non-sufficient in terms of ensuring that the Air Force was prepared for future national security challenges.” 

Col. Terri Jones, commander of the Eaker Center, added that “our adversaries aren’t slowing down or fading away, so we have to continue investing in and developing our most important asset: people.”

In his remarks, Hecker told the graduates that the 2018 National Defense Strategy outlines the imperative of building a more-lethal force, a modern, agile informative-advantaged department requiring a motivated, diverse and highly skilled civilian force. 

“That’s what you are. You’re the bedrock of the military,” he said. 

As part of the graduation proceedings, select students were presented Program Leadership Awards and Program Writing Awards, recognizing those who excelled in their assigned sections.

Recipients of the Program Leadership Award were Becky Minor-Thompson, Belinda Valencia, Trisha Hamilton and Krista Reese. The award is presented to students who obtained overall academic excellence and outstanding class contributions during the entire program.

Recipients of the Program Writing Award were Minor-Thompson, Lea Johnson, Tosha Graham and Katrina Scott. The award is presented to recognize contributions toward writing excellence. 

“It’s one of a kind,” said Hecker, speaking to the value of the civilian degree program. “No other service has the ability to do this, to provide a quality education that will do nothing but make them a better person and a better individual civilian serving in our military.”

2021 CADP graduates:

Cindy Allen – Air Force Personnel Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, Texas
Japheth Bennett – Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Tinker AFB, Okla.
April Boring – 92nd Force Support Squadron, Fairchild AFB, Wash.
Codie Davis – 414th Supply Chain Management Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
Kyle Flatt – 553rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Sally Gonzalez – 502nd Air Base Wing, Joint Base San Antonio – Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Tosha Graham – 50th Contracting Squadron, Schriever AFB, Colo.
Tina Gumbs – United States Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.
Kenneth Hall – 12th Maintenance Group, Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, Texas
Trisha Hamilton – Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hill AFB, Utah
James Henley – 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Robins AFB, Ga.
Dustin Hess – 414th Supply Chain Management Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
Lea Johnson – 72nd Medical Support Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Cheryl Kester – 42nd Air Base Wing, Maxwell AFB, Ala.
Keegan King – 673rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
Steven Krueger – 573rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron, Robins AFB, Ga.
Spencer Lehr – 809th Maintenance Support Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah
Johna Lewis – 552nd Commodities Maintenance Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Pamela Long – Air Force Personnel Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, Texas
Jamie Loyd – 566th Electronic Maintenance Squadron, Robins AFB, Ga.
Sanchit Masih – Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Bonnie McGee – Air Force Test Center, Edwards AFB, Calif.
Carl Militello – Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome Lab AFB, N.Y.
Becky Minor Thompson – Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Wendy Nedzweckas – Joint Warfare Analysis Center, Dahlgren, Virginia
Amber Nelms – Air Force Personnel Center, Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph AFB, Texas
Andrew Peters – 21st Civil Engineering Squadron, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Wyo.
Amber Pryor – 421st Supply Chain Management Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Stella Putt – 81st Training Wing, Keesler AFB, Miss.
Krista Reese – Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Karon Robinson – Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Karen Rost – Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Nereyda Salas-Chacon – 76th Maintenance Support Squadron, Tinker AFB, Okla.
Dorthey Sanders – 82nd Security Forces Squadron, Sheppard AFB, Texas
Katrina Scott – 12th Flying Training Wing, Joint Base San Antonio – Randolph, Texas
Sean Shillato – 6th Civil Engineering Squadron, MacDill AFB, Fla.
Joshua Smith – Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins AFB, Ga.
Danny Stewart – Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Ted Trolson – 94th Civil Engineering Squadron, Minneapolis-St Paul Air Reserve Station
Belinda Valencia – F-35 Partner Support Complex, Eglin AFB, Fla.
Laurie Webb – 460th Force Support Squadron, Buckley Space Force Base, Colo.
Jeannette Zalma – Air Force Research Laboratory, Kirtland AFB, N.M.

To learn more about CADP, click here.