History was never a favorite subject for Jessica Colon in high school and undergraduate college. While she always loved military history, particularly the American Revolution, and only watched military commentaries on TV, history classes that required memorization of dates and names did not fuel her passion. While she earned a B.S. in Exercise Science and worked as an exercise physiologist for firefighters and emergency responders, Jessica’s unwavering interest in military history and husband’s Marine Corp. career inspired her to investigate the possibility of earning an advanced degree in military history.
Jessica discovered Norwich University through an online search of the Top 10 Online Universities offering a Master of Arts in Military History (MMH). While other graduate school options offer a purely online experience, Norwich requires a campus residency prior to graduation that appealed to Jessica. She also liked Norwich concept-based courses that discuss tactics and impacts of wars. Rather than test on facts, curriculum requires students to write a perspective of history using original ideas. As part of class assignments, students also respond to homework posts made by peers through an interactive forum. As many military members attend Norwich MMH courses, Jessica gained different perspectives from critiques on her homework that offered new knowledge on military policy, tactics and strategy not discussed in her studies.
While coursework is challenging, Jessica finds support from professors such as Dr. Earl Catagnus, professor for the Amphibious Warfare course, who encouraged her to submit her Capstone thesis idea on Marine Corps operations in Hiroshima for the Northern Great Plains History Conference 2018. Once accepted, Dr. Catagnus provided guidance to Jessica through the process of developing a paper on the topic. Winning the award for the best graduate student paper on Military History, Jessica presented her paper among notable historical experts and scholars. (This award was co-sponsored by the Society for Military History www.smh-hq.org and by the Cantigny First Division Museum in Wheaton, Illinois www.fdmuseum.org.
At the conference, Jessica also had the unique opportunity as a student to network with seasoned military historians and teachers including Martha Sloan, a recent Norwich MMH graduate and retired college dean who is now researching, presenting and publishing military history as well as a Jeremy Maxwell, a Norwich MMH faculty member that just published a book on African-Americans in Korea and Vietnam. Jessica looks now forward to meeting her peers and participating in roundtable discussions at her one-week Norwich residency in June, 2019.
From initially feeling overwhelmed by her first MMH class, Jessica continues to gain confidence throughout her Norwich experience. By her third class, she felt inspired to, perhaps someday, earn a PhD in her studies. Upon graduation, she may pursue teaching, using the critical thinking, research and analytical techniques learned through Norwich University to teach students rather than by rote. Other aspirations include working in a museum and writing a book on Military History. (Her favorite authors are Jeter Isley and Philip Crowl who wrote books on Marine Corp operations in World War II).
Norwich opened the door to unexpected and welcoming opportunities for Jessica while putting her back on the path to pursue her passion for military history. She knows that her professors can serve as mentors, providing advice as she pursues a new career path, presents at other conferences and/or prepares for Ph.D. work in history. Jessica is making history on her own!