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Clarion Online Student Finds Success as a Marine and Adult Learner

October 27, 2016
Blaze Grad Family
Christopher Blaze and his family celebrate his graduation from Clarion University.

For one adult learner, choosing Clarion Online was a way to further his education while serving his country as a Marine.

Throughout his 12-year military career, Christopher Blaze has been stationed at many exotic locations around the world including Camp Pendleton, California, Iwakuni, Japan, Parris Island, South Carolina, Twentynine Palms, California, Fort Wood, Missouri, and Silverdale Washington, with stops in Iraq and Afghanistan in between.

While on active duty in 2008, Blaze decided to begin his college career with online learning, taking one course at a time to accommodate his busy military work schedule and home life.  Chris and his wife, Renae, are the parents to nine-year old son, Clint.

Being a Marine Air Ground Task Force Engineer meant days filled with high-intensity duties including general construction, flight line engineering, route clearance, explosives demolition, strategic facility security, as well as teaching construction at engineer school.

“I have always been proud to be a Marine, but I also realized early on that for me, having a successful life after the Marines meant earning a college degree,” said Blaze. 

Although the challenges of dealing with pursuing an education while on active duty are real, and finding time to study while trying to plan an academic career that doesn't have anything to do with a military one can be daunting, Blaze is thankful for the assistance that he has received from Clarion staff members.

“Clarion University was one of only a small number of schools that had full-service online programs with support staff, affordable tuition, and most importantly good accreditation,” said Blaze, who began his studies at another institution but soon learned that Clarion’s program was a better fit for him.

After contacting Clarion, Blaze spoke with Lynne Lander Fleisher, director of Clarion Online, who assisted him throughout the admission and enrollment process.

 According to Fleisher, “Chris has been very diligent in his approach to his education, and we were happy to accommodate him with our online learning program, and then ultimately with classes on campus.”

Blaze Iraq
Blaze is photographed while serving in Iraq.

“Clarion is proud and humbled to serve our entire veteran population, and we work hard to put every student’s needs first, whether they are online or on-campus learners,” she added.

Blaze realized early on that being limited to only taking one course at a time was going to be too long and arduous of a process, so he worked his way through as many classes as possible before transferring to the Marine Reserves in 2014. With this change in status, he was then able to study full time.

“Clarion’s broad schedule of online classes, combined with the ability to take summer and winter classes, enabled me to accumulate a large amount of credits year-round,” Blaze said.

As a full-time student, Blaze worked hard to complete his associate degree in Liberal Arts in 2015, followed by a bachelor’s degree in 2016, and is currently working online to complete a Master of Science degree in Information and Library Science (MSLS).

“Clarion also makes the admissions process for graduating seniors seamless, preferable, and as always affordable,” he said.

“Chris’s educational experience here at Clarion is a perfect example of our flexible ‘stop out’ program where students, especially active military, have the ability to stop taking classes for a period of time, then return as their schedules allow – all with no ‘hiccups’ or interruptions to their pursuit of a degree,” said Fleisher.

Blaze Grad Family
Blaze poses while enjoying some down time in Afghanistan.

“That flexibility, along with our wide course offerings and program accreditations is what makes Clarion’s online program attractive to many students. Clarion is not just a great online school but also friendly to returning adult students, including veterans.”

According to Blaze, “with online learning, your age and life experiences become less significant. For example, it was never a big deal to be the oldest one in class or work with the younger students.”

“Earlier this year when I was nearing graduation, I contacted Career Services to help build my resume and cover letter and improve my interview skills. The help that Erin Lewis, assistant director of Career Services, gave me ultimately helped me land my first job outside of the military.”

Blaze has since moved on to employment at Norwich University in Connecticut as a Company First Sergeant for a company in the university’s Corps of Cadets, where he can use both his military experience as well as his college education.

“I am proud to have served in the Marines and to graduate from college at any age, and am especially proud to be a Clarion graduate.”

Last Updated 1/11/21