“Knowing that these Aztecs were on the job made my work so much easier because I knew they could get the job done.”
For many educators, there is no greater gift than seeing students succeed in the real world. Kathleen (Kaye) Sweetser
, a San Diego State University associate professor of public relations, recently had the chance to not only see some of her former students succeed, but to actually be a part of their success.
Sweetser is the program coordinator for the military public affairs officers (PAO) program in the School of Journalism and Media Studies
. She is also a commissioned public affairs officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and served as the officer-in-charge of the Navy's Joint Information Center during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor last month. During that assignment, Sweetser had the opportunity to work alongside several graduates of the PAO program.
“Knowing that these Aztecs were on the job made my work so much easier because I knew they could get the job done,” said Sweetser. “This was the first time in my 20 years of Navy service that I had a chance to work with my former students while wearing my own Navy uniform. To see how my former students now perform in the fleet, and to work right alongside them on such a major event, was unforgettable.”
Similar to the military environment students are used to, SDSU’s PAO graduate program is fast-paced and demanding. Potential students are vetted for the program by their respective military branches, and if admitted by the School of Journalism and Media Studies, assigned to full-time graduate studies at SDSU. The program kicks off with a month-long summer boot camp that covers two courses. After 10 months, students return to their full-time military careers with a master’s degree in hand.
Lt. Cmdr. Beth Teach
(’13) had been a part of the Navy Public Affairs community for four years when she arrived at SDSU. Getting a master’s degree provided her valuable theoretical knowledge to supplement the practical experience she obtained during two deployments and work at both the U.S. Third Fleet and Expeditionary Strike Group THREE.
“It was a tremendous opportunity, truly invaluable, to step away from the Fleet and be able to focus fully on training, learning, and research, said Teach. “The community highly values the PAO program at SDSU, and completion of the M.A. degree is considered a career milestone.”
Launched in 2004 in coordination with the U.S. Navy, the PAO program was originally only available to mid-career military officers in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. The program has since expanded to nearly all branches of the U.S. military, having graduated officers from not only the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, but also the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard.
The program continues to evolve, as the School of Journalism and Media Studies recently opened a portion of the graduate education experience to civilian public affairs officers working for the U.S. military. Jon Yoshishige
, who worked alongside Sweetser during the Pearl Harbor commemoration in December, recently became the first civilian to earn graduate credit for participating in the month-long summer session.
So far, more than 100 students have graduated from SDSU's military public affairs officers program.