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You may remember the old television commercials for the Army, the ones that claimed, ?We do more before breakfast than most people do all day.? In the case of Wanda Cross, that?s probably true. Cross, a contract specialist with the U.S. Army Space Missile Defense Command (SMDC), is not only serving her country in the Middle East, she?s also a full-time student at American Graduate University.
How does she manage it? With AGU?s flexible, student-centered and cost-effective distance learning programs, earning a degree is an attainable goal for anyone, even those with the most demanding schedules.
Currently stationed in Kuwait, Cross is earning a Master?s Certificate in Acquisition and Contracting. She admits that it?s a challenge juggling both career and school, especially in a foreign country.
?I am required to manage a number of priorities at once and my schooling is one of them. It?s easier because AGU?s program provides me the time I need to complete course assignments, on the go, overseas or anywhere in the world. I have the flexibility to earn my degree and still be successful in my career.?
She began her studies at AGU in October of 2003, while still stationed in Huntsville, AL. Cross was deployed to Iraq in 2004, where she completed a nine-month detail assignment with the Coalition Provisional Authority, helping to rebuild the infrastructure and otherwise better the lives of Iraqi citizens. It was a truly rewarding experience for her.
?I sensed that many of the Iraqis were glad to have our presence,? she explains. ?The military mission created jobs, improved the infrastructure, helped to restore electricity, and built hospitals and schools. More importantly, Iraqis now have the freedom to live as they choose and make decisions for their families, without the dictatorship they previously experienced over the past 30 years.?
Shortly after her return to the States, Cross was offered a year-long assignment with the U.S. Army Contracting Command-Southwest Asia (USACC-SWA) and the Area Support Group-Kuwait (ASG-KU). She is now part of a support team assisting the military operations and units in the Middle East, including Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations. ASG-KU provides supplies, equipment maintenance and repair, staging and logistics support for these military operations.
Although Cross has made the commitment to one year?s service in Kuwait, her assignment may be extended for up to five years. With a career that requires travel and flexibility, it?s easy to see that a traditional graduate program was next to impossible for her. Yet she still desired the credibility and professional status that a degree would afford her. ?I am gaining experience to prepare me for challenging assignments and complex procurements involved in defense contracting,? says Cross. ?A degree sets the stage for everything that follows.?
The Master?s certificate program in Acquisition and Contracting includes courses such as Business Development & Proposal Preparation, Government Contract Law, and Risk Analysis and Management. It is geared toward students who wish to obtain not only an in-depth knowledge of acquisition, contracting and procurement processes, but also how these processes are interconnected with standard business management processes such as finance, marketing, law, and operations.
American Graduate University has a rolling admissions policy, which means that students can begin their studies any day of the year, and can take as long as they need to complete their education. Ideal for self-directed, self-motivated individuals who are also balancing career, family, and the pressures of everyday life, classes at AGU are text-based and web-enabled ? there are no artificial deadlines or demands.
The Acquisition and Contracting Master?s Certificate program, like all of the degree and certificate programs at AGU, has an emphasis on experiential learning and real-world applicability. The knowledge and skills that students gain are directly related to, and influenced by, their day-to-day experience in the working world. Wanda Cross can attest to this. She says that the education she?s receiving at AGU has had an immediate impact on the work she does in Kuwait. ?In fact, I brought my books from previous courses with me, and I refer to them often,? she explains. ?The AGU courses supplement my experience and make me well-rounded in various types of procurements.?
Asked about the work she?s doing, and the message she wants to convey to her fellow Americans back home, Cross says, ?The war on terror is real and it is a world challenge. We all must stay vigilant at home and abroad, and support our troops, who put their lives on the line every minute to protect the freedoms that we enjoy in the USA.? Yet her time abroad has shown Cross that, despite outward differences in ideology or customs, people the world over share fundamental similarities. ?The world must continue in prayer for world peace and unity among all countries,? she adds.
As much as she enjoys her present assignment and its many challenges, Cross is looking forward to her return home. ?I plan to spend time with family and continue working in the Army contracting field,? she says of her plans for the future. With the invaluable experience she gained in the Middle East, and the education she has earned from American Graduate University, it?s certain that Wanda Cross will find success in that field.

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