Veterans Day Spotlight: Sun Devils Who Serve

Kyle Ballard’s path to ASU Online wasn’t traditional. From a small town in South Carolina to seeing the world through the United States Navy, the twists and turns along Ballard’s journey led him to his next step.

Ballard's interest in language propelled his start in higher education at the University of South Carolina, where he majored in French and international studies. He had to change course soon after starting, however, eventually withdrawing from his program and enlisting in the U.S. Navy to continue his study of language as a cryptologic technician (interpretive).

Upon graduating from the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California with an Associate of Arts degree in Persian-Farsi, Ballard was again ready for his next step.

“Between all of the deployments to the Middle East and Africa, I really had to focus on work and my home life in the small amounts of time that I had off,” Ballard said. “But once I transferred to a shore duty station, my largest concern was finding a college that would accept my nontraditional academic beginning.”

After some research, Ballard learned that ASU offers resources for veteran students as well as the Earned Admissions program, which allows students of all backgrounds to take 12 hours of ASU courses with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.75. Upon completion, students are guaranteed admission to ASU. Understanding ASU Online offers the same quality education and student support as the on campus programs, Ballard applied for admission.

Forming a community

While in the Earned Admissions program, Ballard found a group of students advocating for the creation of an online student government (OSG) for ASU Online students, which instantly piqued his interest.

“One of the petition signers reached out to me and gave me the low-down of what they were trying to do, and I was hooked,” Ballard said. “I spent countless hours during the summer and autumn developing the framework for OSG and in meetings with fellow members.”

Ballard credits finding his own community with enhancing his overall experience at ASU Online and inspiring his interest in political science.

"Through the goal of bringing a better student experience to those at ASU Online, I developed lasting friendships with people all over the world and even plan to meet in person in the near future,” he said.

“Online student organizations are growing. They allow you to meet people whether in your major or not, allow you to get more of a traditional college experience, and help you feel closer to ASU.”

Ballard plans to graduate in 2021 with his Bachelor of Arts in political science. His next step will be earning his master’s online at ASU in global security or political psychology and continuing his work with OSG.

“ASU Online has given me so much,” Ballard said. “A group of friends with the same passion for service, and a commitment to giving back to the university that prepared us for our futures.”

Additionally, he notes that the flexibility of his coursework at ASU Online enabled him to continue his work in the Navy and still find time outside of the more traditional school system to devote to his studies. With his eyes on finishing his M.A., Ballard is looking at leaving military service and applying to work with the State Department.

Connecting with other veterans

Connecting with like-minded peers, like Ballard’s experience finding OSG, builds your sense of community and can truly enhance your overall educational journey.

Sun Devil Military, through SunDevilSync, is one of the many ways our students can foster their own military and veteran community. The group’s purpose is to provide outreach to active military, military dependents, retired military or any other student using military benefits. The group centralizes questions related to military education, work/student life balance or any other needs our military and veteran students may have to foster a better experience and deeper relationships with their peers.

Another way to connect is attending Salute to Service, which is hosted annually around Veterans Day. The ASU and ASU Online communities are invited to attend the celebration honoring veterans and active members of the military, which include military appreciation events, performances, panel discussions and activities sponsored by student clubs.

Veteran support at ASU

As you pursue your degree at ASU as a veteran, active military service member or military spouse, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and its staff are dedicated to your success. At the center named in honor of one of the greatest Sun Devils ever, we challenge you to carry on Pat Tillman’s legacy as a scholar and make the most of your education and experience at ASU. The veterans center staff is available to answer your questions, provide direct assistance and help connect you with resources to empower you to succeed.

Some available resources include:

Ballard, who has used the Veterans Center as a resource himself, encourages other veterans and military personnel studying with ASU Online to do the same.

“They can help you best utilize your benefits, assist with deployment or drop-out issues, and offer scholarships,” Ballard said. “They have so many things to offer!”

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