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Master’s degree student reflects on online learning experience

Leal Family: Marvin (left), Rhi (right) and their son Luke

Marvin Leal and his family.

May 07, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Marvin Leal started Arizona State University's Master of Arts in Global Security as a way make advancements in his life-long career in the military as well as in his education. As a Threat Analyst for the U.S. Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command, his duties include developing informational products detailing foreign threats to U.S. Army networks for the staff at NETCOM.

“I realized that I wanted to learn more about why we fight wars, how strategies are developed, and how the international system works. I found out that the courseware in ASU’s online MA in global security filled many of the areas that I wanted to study and as a bonus, many of the courses were taught by authors whose work I had been following over the last 10 years,” Leal said.

Marvin will be graduating this May with his master’s degree from the School of Politics and Global Studies. He is part of the first graduating cohort for the cybersecurity concentration.

“As a practitioner, I was very specialized in a niche topic and I would metaphorically miss the forest because I was focused on one tree,” Leal said.

The program allowed him to take his existing knowledge and broaden his scope to view international policy and military problems from a strategic point of view, while also allowing him to understand how to better communicate with senior government civilian and military leaders.

“I think that this degree program is unique because of the people that are associated with the program. The student body within the program is very unique because it consists of people who want to get into the global security field and practitioners who have been working in the field for years, sometimes decades,” Leal said.

The master's program also holds events, which students can attend either in-person on the Tempe campus or via Zoom. Events sometimes feature program professors who live in various parts of the country and world.

“For me, another unique factor of this program is that, while not required, I was invited to participate in multiple seminars and workshops at the campus where I was able to meet and work with some of the top minds in the global security arena. These opportunities vastly exceeded my expectations of an online program,” Leal said.

As Leal was working on his master’s degree, his wife, Rhi Leal, became increasingly interested in the program. She works as a cross-cultural competency instructor for the Army’s Culture Center, which is tasked with teaching soldiers about different cultures, build rapport and successfully work with partner nation militaries around the world.

“I decided to join the MAGS program because when my husband was taking classes I noticed that the staff was very friendly and made him feel as if he was an on-campus student. They invited us to attend virtual workshops and events at the campus, which made me want to switch from the MA program I was attending at another university to the MAGS program,” Rhi Leal said.

Rhi Leal is confident that the program will provide her with a better understanding of the structure and fundamentals of global security and conflict around the world which will help her develop better seminars and research products for soldiers who are deploying to support partner nations. One of the biggest benefits of working on their Master’s though ASU Online was the fact that they are able to balance work, academics, and the transition of becoming new parents to their son, Luke.

“I was able to coordinate with my professors and not fall behind on my classes. A day after my son was born, I was even able to do a zoom meeting from the hospital with a professor to get some advice on my capstone project while my son slept in my arms,” Leal said.

As a result of some of the work that Leal has done within the Master of Arts in Global Security program, he has been selected to work on two very competitive broadening assignments within his organization that will make him more competitive for higher-level positions in the future. In terms of plans after graduating with his degree, Leal is looking forward to helping his wife achieve to advance in all aspects of his life.

“In the near term, I think I am going to take a short break from school and concentrate my time on raising my son, competing for promotion opportunities at work, and doing chores around the house so that my wife will also have the time to successfully complete the MAGS program,” Leal said.

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