“The most valuable part of being a military spouse is the feeling that you’ve somehow contributed to the betterment of something bigger than yourself.”
Museum Studies student Michelle Wilson knows sacrifice. As an army wife, she is intimately familiar with the unique challenges that face men and women whose loved ones serve and protect our country.
“There is an ache that is precious to military spouses that comes by way of deployments, personal losses, and missed opportunities as a result of our spouse’s career and the subsequent lifestyle. My tenure as an army wife has seen many wonderful miracles and many devastating tragedies.”
That didn’t sway her from making the best of her situation, however. She cites experiencing other cultures, working with groups that mentor and challenge others to be better, becoming part of a global community, making lifelong friends, and traveling to destinations that inspire the soul as just a few of the opportunities her role as a soldier’s wife has allowed her.
Despite their many benefits, these opportunities come with their own set of challenges.As is the case for many military spouses, Wilson’s frequent travels and relocations made it difficult to continue her education. Before being introduced to the University of Oklahoma‘s College of Professional and Continuing Studies, she had already attended five different colleges or universities with more than double that number of majors.
“Until I came to PACS, I really didn’t know what I wanted to ‘be when I grew up’,” she explained.
At PACS, she found focus.
“I chose PACS because I needed an academically strong institution, not some cookie-cutter degree factory. I knew I needed courses that were interesting and valuable, not full of busywork and monotony. I liked that OU had a program that honored military members and their families by offering reasonable tuition.”
As a mother, community volunteer, and art teacher, she also knew she would be juggling many other responsibilities while going to school. “The online option was incredibly appealing for someone like me, who moves frequently and travels constantly.”
The final deciding factor came after reading the descriptions of the classes offered at PACS and seeing the degrees that were available. She knew she wanted to be part of the PACS body of learners, and the Museum Studies program fit well with her personal goals for education.
A Degree for the Future
“People tend to think in terms of personal experiences, and almost everyone remembers field trips to a museum,” she explained. “My philosophy as a public education advocate is that museums may very well be the classrooms of the future. At the very least, museums are going to continue to grow as major stakeholders in education for all levels of learning.”
The importance PACS places on the application and understanding of interdisciplinary studies in particular was beneficial for Wilson during her undergraduate and graduate coursework. She used this emphasis to find connections between different disciplines that can be easily observed and featured in museum venues.
Her favorite example of this is Da Vinci The Exhibition, a traveling exhibit wherein museum visitors can witness the thinker’s artwork, study his inventions, and learn about the Renaissance period by participating with interactive displays.
“Through different modals of learning,” she explained, “Students and visitors can learn and have fun at the same time.”
Making a Difference
Apart from engaging in her studies, Wilson also used her time at PACS as a way to experience personal growth and to make a difference in her community. In 2009, Wilson started a non-profit group for gifted children that quickly garnered support from similar organizations, as well as from Duke University. She has also served on a school board, led a Girl Scout troop, and worked as a Family Readiness Group leader while her husband was in command. Her degree has helped her use her life experience, insight, and ideas to contribute to greater causes.
“It’s funny how well I thought I knew myself before my journey with PACS. I understood a lot about my personality, but there were deeper facets of my character that came to light after just a couple of classes. I didn’t realize I was a natural researcher, creative writer, or that I would ever want to be a full-time educator.”
Now, she is always looking for new and better ways to learn and teach. Her experience at PACS has helped her do just that.
“When I am asked about my academic profile, I really sound like I’ve achieved something grand. And I believe I have.”