(Image above: four members of the UW Tacoma Class of 2020 - Thnwa Ahmed, Kathryn Davidson, Clinton Sizemore and Nataly Herrman and family.)
Clinton Sizemore’s path to a Master of Cybersecurity and Leadership degree (MCL) has had some twists and turns along the way. But Sizemore, ’20, now believes that despite the zigs and zags, pursuing a degree is what led him to his calling.
Sizemore comes from a long line of tradesmen. He is originally from Wahrani Swamp in the small town of Lanexa, Virginia. Sizemore, his brothers and sisters were all homeschooled. Following graduation, Sizemore took a few classes at community college, but didn’t quite find the right fit, so he decided to join the U.S. Air Force and became part of the military’s Emergency Services Team.
Sizemore was stationed in California, where he met his future wife, and served as part of the first deployment of troops to Afghanistan right after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. When his daughter was born, Sizemore decided it was time to retire from the service. He continued to work in law enforcement in California, but when his wife found a dream job as an air traffic controller in her home state of Washington, Sizemore took up the role as a stay-at-home parent. “I definitely don't hit the stereotype of where you go from veteran and law enforcement into stay-at-home dad,” he said. “You know what, though? It was the most rewarding time of my life.”
“When you and I were growing up, if dad showed up to school it meant someone was in trouble, but these are new times,” he explained. He believes raising children can be “a joint venture that both parents are engaged in, regardless of gender.”
Sizemore stayed home with his two daughters for six years before deciding to go back to school at Green River College to obtain a bachelor of applied science degree in information technology (IT). From there, he found a job that helped him pursue his education while also maintaining a close connection with his kids. “I was hired immediately by the school district where my daughters were students, so not only was I working again, but I was working in a district where I could go by and eat lunch in the cafeteria with them,” said Sizemore. He then moved over to a position as an adjunct instructor at Green River College teaching IT classes at night. “This is where I learned the difference between a career and a calling,” said Sizemore.
While working in IT, Sizemore became especially interested in the arena of cybersecurity. The UW Tacoma MCL degree came up in his search for options and, to Sizemore, it seemed like the perfect fit. The program, designed for working professionals pursuing a graduate degree, meant Sizemore could keep working while attending school. He eventually took a full-time position at Green River, which led to a desire to gain a mastery of the field to better serve his students. He has been able to apply the skills and training he learned in the classroom to his day job and use what he has learned in the MCL program in lesson planning and giving his students a more solid foundation for the future.
Sizemore credits the UW Tacoma program and IT community with helping support his transition to becoming an educator and finding his calling. “They've given me a lot and allowed my career to pivot from what it was to what it is,” he said. “I'd like to be able to give back to that. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to go into education.”
Sizemore knows he’s found his calling as an educator, a profession he’s passionate about. That passion is infectious, and he hopes to inspire his students to pursue their passion as well, first-generation college students in particular. He sees the potential effect education can have on a family for generations. “It’s not just that one person that is getting educated,” explained Sizemore. “Their families now can build generationally off what that one person in my class is doing. They don't have to stop at an associates or a bachelor level. They can say, ‘You know what, I've gone this far. I know these things. I could roll right into a graduate program.’"
By staying the course and pursuing his passions, Sizemore is leading by example. “I am showing my daughters, my nieces, my nephews, and my students that it doesn’t matter where you started, it matters what your resolve is right now,” he said. “If you have the resolve to walk through the door, the faculty have the skills to fill your toolbox with essential tools to start a new chapter in your life.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org