Back to School: How the USNCC Organizational Leadership Degree Restarted a Journey of Lifelong Learning

28 March 2023

From Chief Mass Communication Specialist Xander Gamble

MC1 Chelsea D. Meiller is among the hundreds of students enrolled in the Associate of Arts in Organizational Leadership with U.S. Naval Community College, a degree program offered in partnership with Arizona State University. She took the opportunity with USNCC to return to school and complete her degree.

SAN DIEGO — It’s a cool, sunny day on the beaches of Coronado – that is, it is like any day in a San Diego winter. In an earth-colored building along one of the sandy stretches, the public affairs office has boxes of camera equipment stacked along the walls. 

“We’re still moving in,” said Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chelsea D. Meiller, of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. She grabs a tripod out of a locker near the door.

“I’m on sea duty, and I’m a mother to a small child,” she said about her hesitation to start school again. “And I was very nervous about how I was going to balance all of those things at one time, especially knowing that I will have a deployment upcoming, sometime, on this tour.”

Meiller is among the hundreds of students enrolled in the Associate of Arts in Organizational Leadership with U.S. Naval Community College, a degree program offered in partnership with Arizona State University.

“The thing that really attracted me to the Organizational Leadership program is the wide range of things I can use it for,” said Meiller. “I was looking for a degree program that I could use while I am still in the military, but that would also transition really well once I get out of the military. And Organizational Leadership falls into both of those.”

The command senior enlisted leader of USNCC, Sgt. Maj. Michael Hensley, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Organizational Leadership. “My education has helped me to see other perspectives, other points of view, and developed my leadership based on that.” He also said that he was able to pursue his education in part because his degrees were offered entirely online – the format offered for every degree at USNCC.

“Our first class is organizational behavior and it talks a lot about the psychology of organizations; how your personality factors into different leadership styles and organizational cultures,” said Meiller. “And I’m finding – every single chapter – how applicable that is and how much we use that stuff every day without realizing it.”

The Organizational Leadership degree includes a seven-course, 21-credit Organizational Leadership Certificate that forms the core of the associate degree. This is in addition to the five-course, 15-credit Naval Studies Certificate included in every USNCC associate degree, which includes a course in Naval Ethics and Leadership. The remaining credits are devoted to the intellectual skills that develop the student’s 21st-century skills. 

Meiller is returning to school after taking some time off. “Honestly, I have not been a college student since 2017, and I have never taken an online class before, so I was a little nervous about all that,” she said. “There’s always a team of people that we can reach back to to ask questions and kind of help us with wherever we’re stuck at. So, it’s been really great for me so far.

“Between USNCC and ASU, the whole transition has been very easy,” she said. “It’s been really easy for me to find an hour here, an hour there, in order to get things done. It’s not taking away from my home life. And I know that it’s important to show my son the value of education.”

As a transfer student, Meiller was able to transfer in some of her prior credits.

“Our goal is to reduce the redundancy of courses taken. We want to maximize credits for what we do,” said Hensley. “We want to balance the speed with which a Marine, Sailor, or Coast Guardsmen earns their degree with the quality of degree they earn.”

“I think education is important for everybody, for a lot of reasons,” said Meiller. “It’s always important to grow. And, with that, comes the understanding that you’re never the smartest person in the room, and you always have something to learn from everybody around you.”

The United States Naval Community College is the official community college for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. To get more information about the USNCC, go to Click on the Apply Now link to become a part of the USNCC Pilot II program.

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