National Guardsman Graduates with Credits Earned in Afghanistan

Alex Walsh stands in front of the stage of graduation day.

Posted by: Elizabeth Richardson on December 16, 2019, No Comments

While serving with the Army National Guard at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, Alexander Walsh was working 12-hour shifts, seven days a week but still managed to earn an A in all three East Stroudsburg University courses he was taking while deployed.

Going into this fall semester he had an overall grade point average of 3.92. On Saturday, Walsh, of Easton, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business management with a supply chain concentration.

“He’s really a high-performing student. We are very proud of his academic achievements and his service.” says Jo Bruno, J.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Walsh credits the business professors teaching two online classes and one independent study with helping him earn credits during deployment. The time difference of 8 ½ hours and spotty Internet service presented plenty of obstacles to his studies. But Dr. Daisy Wang, associate professor of business management, Dr. Tribhuvan N. Puri, professor of business management and David Daniel, assistant professor of business management worked around such obstacles to help Walsh succeed.

“I had to contact my professors a couple of times, especially if I knew I was traveling, and say ‘Listen, I apologize, I’m not going to be able to hit my due date because I’ll be traveling and I’ll be without Internet’,” Walsh says. “They were extremely helpful and extremely accommodating and understanding of the situation. They didn’t make the classes easy for me but they were understanding that the time zone was affected by 8 ½ hours.”

Bruno credited June Pepe, associate registrar, and Dr. Douglas Friedman, chair of the department of business management, for helping to facilitate Walsh’s courses while serving overseas.

“We really pride ourselves on being a veteran-friendly institution and National Guard-friendly, for which we’ve been recognized,” Bruno says. “For ESU, it is everything we believe in terms of graduating students who give back to their community, in this case by serving our country in the military.”

Walsh transferred to ESU after earning college credits through his military training and later at Northampton Community College. He arrived at East Stroudsburg University in the spring semester of 2018 and in March of that year found out he would be deployed to Afghanistan. By the time he left for Bagram Air Base in September 2018, he had completed 18 credits at ESU.

The air base is in the mountains, 5,000 feet above sea level, near the capital city of Kabul. Walsh was deployed with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Military Police Company, which is part of the 165th Military Police Battalion.

Specialist Walsh worked in information technology, as well as customs enforcement, frequently traveling to smaller bases, checking gear and containers to make sure nothing illegal was brought back to the United States. That travel gave him a taste of Afghan culture. He visited local outdoor bazaars, where he tried native dishes and learned to haggle with merchants over Afghan goods.

“It was definitely a learning experience, it changed my perspective on a lot of things,” he says. “How I look at things and how I value things have changed. The hardest part about that was being away from family, being away from a culture that you’re used to and being thrust into a totally new environment.”

Bringing such experiences back to ESU enriches the fabric of the campus, Bruno says.

“In higher education, we want to broaden our students’ perspectives to have a global interest,” she says.

As for the future, Walsh is currently communicating with a couple of companies in the area about employment opportunities. Ultimately, he would like to lead his own team in an operations or purchasing role.

“With my supply chain degree, I have a couple of different paths in terms of logistics, purchasing, operations and analysis,” he says. “I like the hands-on, the efficiency aspect of it, figuring out you can always do something a better way.”

That drive for efficiency in business was emphasized by Dr. Yue Xi, assistant professor of business management.

“Dr. Xi emphasizes efficiency and always finding the best way to do something and working toward continuous improvement,” says Walsh. “I’ve learned quite a lot from him.”

On Saturday, 486 students received degrees from ESU during the winter commencement ceremony.