Student Leader Halfway around the World

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A military-contracted fuel specialist completes his business course work with classmates while abroad in Afghanistan. Bernard Higgins is a role model in how he makes time to advance his education while serving our country.

Many students at the University of Washington Tacoma work a job as well as attend classes. All of this requiring extensive skills in time management to keep on top of course work and staying on track to achieve their degrees. Bernard Higgins battled with the struggles of student life while serving our country half a planet away in Afghanistan.

Bernard Higgins, Milgard alumni 2019

Bernard flying over Afghanistan (2018)

Finishing up his BA in Business Administration with a focus in Management this last December (2018), Bernard spent a portion of his autumn quarter functioning as a Fuel Distribution Systems Operator supporting Operation Enduring Freedom through government contracting. While there he described his experience as “an experience that I will never forget. Trying to not only work 84 hours a week but finding the time for my studies as well.”

After accepting the company’s offer to fly to Afghanistan to work for several weeks, Bernard was faced with the pressing task of letting his teammates and professors know. In preparation to approach his professors he became determined to continue his education.

“I knew that a job like this doesn't come around often and that I had a great opportunity but I also knew that it might cut into my studies. I felt like if I gave my professors enough notice of the opportunity and showed them that I am capable of doing the work, that I would have a great chance of succeeding in my class.”

During his time in Afghanistan he was challenged with course work and group projects, but through discipline, drive, and the help of his classmates, Bernard persevered through his classes. His study habits needed to adapt while he was away, he states during an interview, “I study like I would if I were home. Only difference is that I’m 12.5 hours ahead, so I wake up early or stay up late to make meetings with teammates.

Bernard in uniform

Fueling up

He describes his classroom experience while abroad as “somewhat the same, just not as hands on”. He later states how he misses the interaction with the teacher and his peers, noting the differences between sitting in for a presentation lecture and reading the slides of the course on canvas. Since then he has grown a greater appreciation for the valuable information gathered from being physically present in classes.

He continues further thanking his teammates for their help.

“I can attribute any success this past semester to my classmates Jami Cross, Courtney May and Lyndsey Suggs. These 3 were/are essential in my completion of my final courses. Also Katrina M. who has been in constant contact with me [with] her first skype.” 

Bernard Higgins has safely returned and walked this last June, 2019. Milgard staff had the chance to ask him some questions regarding his experience abroad spring quarter, 2019.

Q1.) When did you get back from your work overseas? What have you been doing since and what are your future goals?

"I got back from overseas at the end of February 2019. I had stop physically attending classes at the end of October. I’ve really been focusing on spending as much time as possible with my family and finally landed a job with the Social Security Administration. The job search was very stressful because I didn’t have the traditional experience of doing an internship in my degree, so I feel like that made it a bit harder.  Some of my future goals would be to work in a corporate environment like Microsoft, Amazon or Apple, you know really learn the ins and outs of that lifestyle.  I would love to own my own business as well, I have a few ideas that I want to see come to fruition."

Q2.) What would you recommend to current non-traditional students that may be in difficult situations with their business coursework?

"I would recommend that they learn how to manage their work load. Focus on the quality of your grades instead of completing the degree. Sure you can take 3 classes a quarter and have mediocre grades but take your time and get the most out of the lectures. Find that balance between school, work and personal life.​"

Q3.) What did you love best about your time at the Milgard School of Business?

"The teachers that really took the time out to teach and make sure that we understood the information (Stan Emert). I like how it was both small and big enough  that we were able to interact with each other and form friendships. The team building was great and I’m just thankful I had the opportunity to attend the Milgard School of Business​."

He leaves a parting statement about his time at UW Tacoma.

“I attribute my success in college to my wife and kids. Without their support and motivation I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have. I cannot forget the comradery and support that I have received from fellow students and professors this past quarter. I am very thankful for having so much support.”

Written by: 
Shane Benoit, Noah Carr / July 8, 2019
Photos by: 
Bernard Higgins
Media contact: 

Shane Benoit, Bernard Higgins