May 22, 2018
I entered the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) as one of the later recruits to be accepted into the Officer Candidate Training Plan (OCTP) in late 1991. Having successfully completed my Basic Officer and Second Language I had yet to prove that without a university degree I was still trainable and retainable. As I passed the time waiting for the various career courses to open to me, I began chipping away at the old Officer Professional Development Plan (OPDP) courses.
Eventually I earned my pilot wings proving that I was indeed trainable. But every successive Commanding Officer continued to harp on the need for that coveted undergraduate degree to demonstrate my potential. Come the turn of the century and the advent of the new Officer Professional Military Education (OPME), I had still one OPDP remaining. That requirement translated to the new system as a final course remaining – PSE401 – Leadership and Ethics, which was offered via Distance Learning (DL) by the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). I took the books with me on a deployment to a tent in the desert with the USAF E3 AWACS. It was brilliant. Facing challenges with young rank vs sage experience on my aircrew, I both applied lessons I was learning in real-time and wrote to my course-mates about my observations. The epiphany happened when I undertook that first RMC course. I was hooked.
When I returned home from the desert and found that I had done well, I quickly completed my application for the Bachelor of Military Arts and Sciences (BMASc) degree offered via DL by RMC. One important part of the application was the Individual Learning Plan (ILP) of course, so as to have the endeavour funded at 100% by the CAF. The far more critical part to me was the Prior Learning Assessment & Recognition (PLAR) available at RMC.
PLAR gave me credit for most of the civilian university courses I had taken before changing my recruiting application from ROTP to OCTP. It also gave me credit for the maturity and experience I had since gained in the CAF. With a year’s credit for prior academics and another year’s credit for OPDP, pilot and language training, and other professional education along the way, I was left with only a year’s worth of courses to achieve my degree. Chipping away one distance course at a time, working a full time staff job, and parenting two young children was a full load. But I had matured since my first effort at university, I was more driven to accomplish my goal, and I was much more interested in the subject matter.
Eventually I achieved the requisite number of RMC courses, courses at the senior level, and military content to apply for graduation. My father (a class of ’68 alum) was just as proud as I was that I had finally earned an RMC degree. My CO at the time even made the trip from Ottawa to attend my convocation ceremony.
My next step is to upgrade my 30-credit BMASc to a 40-credit Honours BMASc that will enable me to pursue that graduate degree necessary for senior rank. Once again, RMC is prepared to help me get there with PLAR to recognize my military learning and online courses to address the gaps.
Chief of Staff, Royal Military College of Canada
National Defence / Government of Canada
May 8, 2018
Recently, in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS), I was reminded of how instrumental the Continuing Studies Program was in helping me become the person that I am today.
In 1996, I was a reserve aeroengine technician working at 8 Wing Trenton. I had been muddling through a degree, having started at Carleton University and then on to Queen’s University as a ‘mature’ student. In the late spring, while I was away on temporary duty (TD) in Eureka NWT, I received an email that mentioned the Continuing Studies Program at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC). I emailed the office and was advised to contact them when I came back from TD.
Through several interviews, with then LCdr Robert (Bob) Charest and Dean Barrett, I was given the opportunity to attend classes at RMC. I am not sure if this was truly the vision of DCS at the time – to have a person sitting in classes with members of Cadet Wing – but that is what I did for the academic year of 1996-97. Being a full-time student five days a week, plus homework, essays and exams, in addition to maintaining my qualifications as a technician, it was a busy year. I am not sure what the right combination was, but between the academic staff, my fellow students, some internal motivation and some inspiring words from LCdr Charest, I managed the best post-secondary academic year in my life. In May of 1997, I was just two credits short of a degree.
Later that summer, I was accepted into the regular force, still as an aeroengine technician. This was going to make the last two credits more challenging. Thanks to the flexibility of DCS and the academic staff, I was assigned a directed reading project which included regular sessions with a professor, reading assignments as well as several essays to complete the degree program.
I applied to graduate with the Class of 1998, and was subsequently awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Politics and Economics on convocation day with the graduating class of Officer Cadets.
Later that year, and with a degree in hand, I applied a career change under the special commissioning plan and was accepted as an air navigator in February of 1999.
I owe my current career to the opportunities that LCdr Charest, Dean Barrett, Dr. Sokolsky, the Continuing Studies Program, the outstanding academic staff and my fellow students provided me. I would not be here today without your approvals, support and encouragement.
Arthur R. Jordan
Director, Plans and Strategy
Royal Military College of Canada
Department of National Defence / Government of Canada
Dr. Jim Barrett and LCdr (Ret’d) Robert Charest
November 30, 2017
Right from the start, Royal Military College Continuing Studies was built with Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) students in mind. “Sir”, the CWO said, “The civilian university had been as good as gold to me. Then one day I came to work thinking I’d have supper with my wife, but before lunch I’d had my shot and by suppertime I’d be on the Herc. I called the university to say I’d miss the mid-term. They were sorry, but there was nothing they could do for me. I had to drop the course and forfeit the fees - those were the rules.”
So RMC designed a program with different rules. It’s a university program for working adults, whose jobs can make unexpected demands. Any CAF member is eligible to enroll, academic credit can be given for military training, and professors can accommodate students who have to interrupt a course for operational reasons.
With the blessing of the ADM(PER) and a little funding from the Officer Professional Development Working Group, RMC launched its pilot program in Continuing Studies in 1996, with 120 students. At the 1997 spring convocation, the program had its first two graduates. Just three years later there were more than 800 undergraduate registrations. Roughly half were NCMs. Today, enrolment exceeds 1100 in a broad spectrum of programs at the certificate, bachelors, masters and doctoral levels.
Some twenty years later, that early success still surprises. It was expected to be a small side activity for the College, but the wave of enthusiasm from the CAF was tremendous. Younger members- captains and corporals- were looking for educational opportunities, reflecting a growing demand for lifelong learning in the wider world. Within the Department of National Defence, the fallout from the Somalia enquiry drove a push for a more educated CAF. At the same time, new developments in learning technologies and methods presented exciting new possibilities for educational outreach. The Minister, the senior leadership of the CAF, and individual Forces members all sensed the significance of these trends and were eager to benefit from them.
In 1996, the Royal Military College reached out to the entire Canadian Armed Forces. That decision changed RMC’s perspective from that of a small military university to one of the educational arm of a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Over the past twenty years, Continuing Studies has built on RMC’s recognized academic excellence and the organizational strengths of the CAF to become an important strategic focus for the College and a responsive, sympathetic educational engine for the CAF.
Biographical notes: LCdr (Ret’d) Robert Charest was the Officer in Charge of the RMC Office of Continuing Studies from 1996 to 2002. Dr Jim Barrett was the Chair of the RMC Continuing Studies Committee in 1996 and RMC Dean of Continuing Studies 1997 to 2002.