Frank Robbins was looking toward a civilian career when he retires from the United States Army in the next few years, and he knew that a college degree was going to be crucial in achieving success in his field of interest – adult education.
He found his home in TROY’s Bachelor of Science in Occupational Education program, thanks in part to being familiar with TROY and the military’s GoArmyEd system.
“TROY was one of the few universities that were listed in the then-named GoArmyEd system that offered any sort of andragogy-based degree plans. I knew I wanted to pursue a formal education in that field so that I could have the opportunity to continue teaching adult learners after I retired from the Army,” he said.
Having lived in the area previously, Robbins said TROY was already a familiar name. In 2019, the Army sent him back to Fort Benning, and he relocated to Phenix City. He decided to give the University a more serious investigation before looking at other colleges.
“The people at TROY were what sold me, though,” he said. “My enrollment coordinator, Amanda Norman, helped me to make sure that I was set up for success and treated me less like a customer and more like a family member she was helping out with something. The staff and faculty at TROY have been the highlight of my TROY experience.”
That experience, he says, has been “rewarding and fulfilling.”
“Taking classes while on active duty is never going to be easy. The staff at TROY helped to make sure I had all of the help I needed to get through the administrative processes for enrollment and the financial aspects,” he said.
The faculty, too, were ready to step in and help clear obstacles presented by active-duty life.
“The faculty consistently were empathetic of the difficulties that being on active duty can place on education. They kept the content as challenging as it needed to be while making sure there was no additional stress from the course,” said Robbins. “I have had amazing opportunities for personal and academic growth that I have not received at other institutions.”
Robbins was a soldier who probably didn’t need any more stress in his life – let alone from a higher ed source. He enlisted in the Army on Sept. 12, 2001, in direct reaction of the previous days’ terror attacks. “I believed it was my duty to do that,” he said. “It was the right thing to do.”
Stationed at Fort Drum, New York, Robbins deployed to Afghanistan as a radio operator and rifleman, and then to Iraq as a heavy weapons squad leader. On his return, he was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas and deployed to Iraq three more times as a squad leader with the 1st Cavalry Division. After his final deployment, he attended drill sergeant school and was assigned to Fort Benning as a drill instructor.
His aptitude for adult education was evident, but his passion for teaching was found. After three years, he was transferred to the Army’s Wightman 8th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy in South Korea, serving first as a professional development instructor then as the primary instructor for the instructor course and the staff and faculty development NCO.
“In 2019, I returned to Fort Benning where I continued teaching new Army instructors about the principals of adult learning and the Army Learning Model,” he said.
Robbins knew he had to formalize his learning with a college degree.
“After our time in the military, there is only going to be so much that transfers over into the civilian job market. It is imperative to take every opportunity that can benefit you not only while in the Army, but for when you hang that uniform up for the last time,” he said. “Pursuing an education is one the greatest gifts you can give not only to yourself but to your family as well.”
Robbins admits that after spending so much time away from their families, it’s easy for soldiers to feel guilty about spending home time on education or to feel that they’re being selfish.
“It is anything but selfish. It is one more area that the solider leads in their family by example. The benefits that come from achieving those educational goals cannot be overstated,” he said. “The solider can combine that formal education with actual experience in some of the most austere situations, making him or her vastly more competitive for jobs and higher wages.”
Plus, he said, it adds an opportunity to be selective about post-service employment so that the soldier can find a second career that “is both personally and professionally rewarding.”
For Robbins, the TROY experience is his key to achieving that for himself. He’s been conditionally admitted to the master’s program in adult education and workforce development, pending his undergraduate degree completion. He’s looking forward to it.
“There is a personal connection with TROY that simply makes it feel like home,” he said.