After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with her bachelor’s in Applied Learning and Development, Victoria Villa commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force and was soon stationed in Germany for four years. When she moved back to Texas to serve as an ROTC instructor at Baylor, she decided it was time to pursue her master’s degree.
Initially, Victoria struggled to find a master’s program that fit her need for flexibility and her aspirations for life after the military. As she researched various options, she learned about health education and health promotion programs. “After graduating college and being in the Air Force, I took on a lot of roles involved in resiliency and well-being. Obviously, there are requirements for us to stay fit and have active lives, so it had become a passion of mine.”
One of the most important factors to Victoria was that the institution granting her degree was one with an esteemed reputation. “When I found UA’s online master’s in Health Studies, it was a great university and a good program, so it seemed like a natural fit.” UA’s distance tuition rate was another important factor. “With my military tuition assistance, what I was paying out of pocket was within my budget.”
Victoria began the program in 2018 from Waco, Texas, but in 2019, in the middle of the spring semester, she had to relocate to Korea for a year. Completing assignments for a master’s degree from another hemisphere and time zone presented challenges, but Victoria said all of her professors were helpful and understanding, and the coursework was flexible enough that she was able to make it work. “Since I was about half a day ahead, I just tried to use that to my advantage most of the time and stay ahead.”
Victoria was impressed with her course instructors. “They were all very professional, friendly and well-versed in their content areas.” During one class, a course restructure was approved in the middle of the semester. To keep students abreast of more current research and trends, Victoria’s professor immediately made the updated content available to the class.
In her role as a Logistics Readiness Officer Functional Area Manager (rank of Captain), Victoria found ways to apply what she was learning to her work. “Earning my master’s was always about preparing me for what I was going to do after the Air Force, but while I was in Korea, I was able to implement some of the things I had learned into the resiliency programs we were establishing to improve the well-being and quality of life for airmen.” And her team there appreciated her so much that they surprise-decorated her office when she got promoted to major (photo at left)!
Victoria moved back to the U.S. early in 2020, and in August she graduated. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, she and her family did not travel to Tuscaloosa for commencement, but they did celebrate her accomplishments together from Texas. She looks forward to taking the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam later in 2020. “I’m very confident that I will pass the exam and earn the certification because of the last class I took through the master’s program, which was a prep course for the exam. The way it was laid out to help us review everything we’d learned in the past two years, pulling it all together and adding new concepts as well, helped me have a structured plan to continue preparing. That class was amazing,” she said. After she passes the exam, she has dreams to advance her education even further.
“I’m glad I chose this program. It was nerve-wracking at first since I’d been out of school for quite some time, so it seemed daunting even though I was excited. And it was a lot of hard work, but the fact that I was able to do it – even across two international moves and my military service and everything else on my plate – it gave me confidence and has inspired me to get my PhD in Health Education.”
The views expressed by Victoria Villa in this article do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or the Air Force.
Published: October 12th, 2020