Active-duty Army major graduates with master's degree in history
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.
Walter Sprengeler grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, and has always been in love with northern Arizona. He spent his whole life there and had never left the state until 2008, when he was commissioned in the Army.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University earlier that year, but knew he would enroll in a university again to earn a master’s degree, which was always a goal of his.
“My mother taught me the value of getting an education early on and I look at getting this degree as continuing the family tradition of achieving academic success,” said Sprengeler.
Sprengeler has been on active duty for the last 13 years as a logistician and currently holds the rank of a major. Despite his duties at work, he enrolled in Arizona State University as an online student while continuing to work full-time.
“It has been a constant balancing act between obligations for the Army and the requirements for the graduate program,” said Sprengeler. “I had to take a leave of absence last year because I was deploying with my unit so it was a little frustrating breaking the pace I had. Although it has been tough and challenging, it has been rewarding as well.”
He is earning his master’s in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I received my bachelor’s in education with emphasis on history from Northern Arizona University, so pursuing this field had always been a goal of mine. Additionally, history is a big part of the Army and I use it a lot to make sense of current issues the Army is facing from a logistics perspective.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I learned that many of the challenges our country is currently facing, we have dealt with before. It is up to all of us to work toward a better future for the country. All it takes is all of us stopping and listening to another person’s opinion and taking their viewpoint into consideration. Every class was designed to have those discussions and understand another’s viewpoint. It was a place for debate and discussion — two things we have drifted away from as a whole collective society.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because it was affordable and the class schedule fit my professional timeline. Additionally, my mother and younger brother are alumni from ASU.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: This is a tough question as every professor I had was great. But if I were to narrow it down to one it would have to be Dr. Peter Van Cleave. When I first started the program in the fall of 2018, he was the one I had my first class with and several after that. He was very open with his classes and offered lots of great feedback on discussion board topics and even all my papers. I believe he allowed me to grow as a young historian over the last three years. He is a true professional and one of the best.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Keep going! You’ve got this. Continue to approach all topics with an open mind and have open dialogue with your peers. Balance life and school. You can still have fun while pursuing a graduate degree. Once you get to the end you will look back at where you came from and smile because you will know you did it. Oh, and when they get to the capstone portion of the program, revise, revise and revise some more.
Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?
A: I was an online student and my favorite spot for studying was my own study in my house. I would usually play and listen to some electronic trance music and work on my assignments.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Currently planning on taking a break for a while from higher education. I will be working towards my Arizona teaching certification in 2022. I do want to pursue another master’s degree in the future, either in education from the University of Southern California or foreign diplomacy from the University of Arizona.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Climate change. This is not just any one country’s problem. This is the whole world’s problem. As John F. Kennedy once said, “For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”