In this digital age, online college courses have become fairly common. For Air Force Officer Denis Paquette, the situation was a little different. Paquette worked on completing his master’s degree from South Dakota State University while stationed in Afghanistan.
Paquette grew up in Luverne, Minn., and graduated from SDSU in 1999 with a B.S. in engineering physics, emphasis on mechanical engineering. His recently obtained master’s degree is in quite a different field of study – family financial planning.
“Physics is the study of the world around us and I’ve always been intrigued with how things work,” said Paquette, “That same inquisitive nature has driven me to understand investments and money management.”
Paquette began working on his master’s degree in the spring of 2010, was deployed in April 2012, finished the coursework in the summer of 2012 and completed the oral exam in the fall of 2012 upon his return from deployment.
While Paquette admits it was challenging to complete his coursework while on active duty in a foreign country, he considered balancing a full-time job and his family, including two young children, while working on his master’s back home to be “significantly more challenging.”
“While deployed, I had my free time at work and after work to focus on my master’s courses and finish my presentation for my oral exam,” he explained.
Online education may sound impersonal, but Paquette speaks fondly of the professors he interacted with from afar. “Dr. Esther Maddux’s course on professional practices in financial planning was a ‘where the rubber meets the road’ course. She gave me the hands-on knowledge to make starting a financial planning business a reality. Dr. Kathryn Morrison, my primary adviser, was inspirational in the way she believed in me throughout the entire program.”
Whether he simply waits until his Air Force commitment is up in two years or decides to complete six years in order to officially retire, Paquette, now stationed in Hulburt Field, Fla., is fast approaching the next phase of his life.
“Those years will go by relatively quickly, and through this financial planning degree, I am laying the groundwork for my next career in life,” said Paquette, who established Soaring Investment Management LLC in 2010 with his post-Air Force career goals in mind.
Paquette’s educational opportunity was provided through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, an organization that combines the resources of major research universities to offer education programs online.
Paquette praises GPIDEA for allowing him the opportunity to further his education: “There is so much flexibility built into the GPIDEA structure. The coursework is real work, not just discussion questions every week followed by an ‘A’ if you completed the discussion questions.”
In May, Paquette will walk through SDSU’s graduation ceremony with younger brother Phil who is graduating from the nursing program.
To other students attempting to balance life and school, Paquette offers this advice: “By doing little things well and not focusing on the enormous task that lies ahead, the task becomes paradoxically easy. In other words, ‘yard by yard, life is hard; inch by inch, life’s a cinch.’”
Courtesy: SDSU Office Of University Relations