NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- While Mike Weir and Len Mattiace were competing in the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga., two naval officers assigned to Precommissioning Unit Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) were completing their own master's work in Norfolk, Va.
Lts. Paul Clifford and Jacqueline Pousset, assigned to Reagan Reactor Department, have spent a good portion of their off-duty hours completing advanced courses at Old Dominion University (ODU). Their hard work will pay off May 10 when they earn master's degrees in engineering management.
Both officers had different reasons for pursuing their master's degree.
"My background was in hard science, physics," said Pousset. "I have little to no background in finance and business management. This was an opportunity to expand my horizons and learn about other areas." Pousset calls San Diego home, but was born in Seoul, South Korea.
Clifford, a Locust, N.J., native, chose to continue his education because of the credit he received from his previous Navy training. "ODU offered this degree with 12 credit hours for attending Officer Nuclear Power School (NPS). I have gone through both enlisted and officer NPS and decided to get some free credit," Clifford said.
As part of the PCU's Reactor Department, Clifford and Pousset were members of the team responsible for testing the power plants and training the Sailors who will operate these plants at sea. The testing and training required shift work (12-hour shifts per day or longer) aboard the ship for nearly two years. Even with their strenuous schedule working aboard an aircraft carrier under construction, both officers completed their coursework through online classes. Taking classes online allowed for greater flexibility and helped both officers juggle competing priorities.
"I had to designate time to work on my classes," Pousset said. "It's like the PACE (Program for Afloat College Education) classes a lot of our Sailors are taking."
Clifford agreed. "I woke up early and stayed up late to complete (the work). Twelve hours at work and three hours a day at home for the master's."
Family support helped both naval officers during their degree work.
"My wife and kids were very supportive in allowing me to spend time on the computer instead of doing housework or playing," said Clifford.
Pousset says her husband, also in the Navy, was supportive, but her dog was not.
"For the majority of (the time) while I was working on this degree, my husband was out to sea," said Pousset. "It was a good diversion and a productive learning activity. My youngest puppy however, had taken to destroying my CDs. It was all stressful, and I'm still recovering from it."
In addition to family support, command support also proved helpful.
"From day one, the key points the reactor officer would emphasize was professional development and personal growth," said Pousset. "The support I have gotten to pursue my goals with continuing my secondary education at this command is unparalleled to any other professional environment I have ever been in."
The command and the Navy will see a return on the investment of helping Sailors continue their education.
"As I take each class, I look at my workplace with a new set of eyes," said Pousset. "Issues that I had not been aware of before are brought to light."
Clifford added, "During this course, the methodology used to develop the schedule of production for the propulsion plants was taught, and this allowed me to attain a better understanding of the overall production schedule."
As for what advice she would give others considering continuing their education, Pousset said, "Just do it. Yes, it is painful at times and annoying at others, but what you take away from it is much more than any pain experienced."
Unlike Wier, neither Clifford nor Pousset will earn a green jacket for their master's work, but they have both earned a valuable education that will serve them well throughout their Navy careers.
"Make sacrifices when and where you can to attain any higher education," said Clifford. "Nobody should leave the Navy without attaining the next higher level of education."
For related news, visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.