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Educating the force

Agreements signal ASU move into military education space

Several neat rows of people dressed in white U.S. Navy regalia.
July 05, 2022

The U.S. Naval Community College (USNCC) announced the selection of Arizona State University as its partner for the Pilot II organizational leadership associate degree program June 28, highlighting a newer area of collaboration between ASU and the Department of Defense.

ASU’s DOD portfolio focuses largely on defense research, but recently a new pathway has emerged with the establishment of education programs to help develop the military workforce, primarily through EdPlus — ASU’s digital teaching and learning enterprise that houses ASU Online.  

This latest Navy initiative will provide enlisted sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members a “naval-relevant associate degree in organizational leadership that will directly contribute to the readiness of the naval services and set them on a path of lifelong learning.”

“We are excited to expand the educational opportunities for our enlisted men and women in uniform with this new associate degree program,” said USNCC President Randi R. Cosentino. “This new degree program with an existing partner institution means that we have already established a foundation for the quality education we expect for our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, and we can get to work on focusing on the organizational leadership component of that education.”


Naval professionals pursuing the Associate of Arts in organizational leadership through the USNCC will gain an in-depth understanding of leadership in organizations across all sectors — private, nonprofit, government and military. They will develop skills needed to solve problems, communicate effectively, assess programs, manage resources and evaluate emerging technologies. The degree will also have an established transfer path to a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership, as well as to many other degrees through ASU.

“One important aspect that successful organizations tend to have in common is competent, skilled leadership,” said ASU Vice Provost for Academic Alliances Cheryl Hyman. “This program builds a leadership foundation that will benefit students whether they are in a leadership role now or will assume one in the future. They will learn useful skills applicable to any work or environment, regardless of assigned role.”

This is the second Associate of Arts (AA) degree program between ASU and the Navy. On June 29, the USNCC announced the start of classes for its Pilot II Associate of Arts in military studies. Both parties entered this agreement in October 2021.

“The U.S. Naval Community College understands the tremendous value of higher education and how it positively impacts those who pursue it,” Hyman said. “As the most innovative university in the U.S., known for its unwavering support to the Department of Defense, defense research and our nation’s veterans, we are proud to work with the USNCC to help educate their workforce.

“We expect participants will gain a lot from this valuable program, and we hope many will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.”

The Navy AA programs are primarily for enlisted members and eligible civilians. However, in 2020, ASU partnered with the U.S. Air Force’s Air University to provide an online platform to deliver professional military education to commissioned officers.  

In April 2020, Air Force officers and civilians enrolled in Squadron Officer School logged onto a new, innovative platform designed and managed by EdPlus. By the following month, over 1,600 students had successfully onboarded onto the new system, completing over 750 courses.  

ASU and Air University

Squadron Officer School is a professional military education requirement for all Air Force captains and designated civilians. Members must complete Squadron Officer School to remain eligible for continued service and or promotion. The school may be completed online or in person, if selected.

According to an Air University Public Affairs press release, this was the first time a branch of the U.S. military has used a civilian university partner to deliver officer professional military education.

“This is a unique partnership for the U.S. military, and I believe our students will truly benefit from the enhanced online educational experience it provides,” Lt. Gen. James Hecker, Air University commander and president, said in 2020 when the initiative was first announced. 

In early June, ASU also entered into an agreement with the U.S. Space Force to establish future collaboration that may include research and education with the newest branch of the military.

“Our partnership today with ASU will pave a path to higher education and workforce development,” Space Force Chief Technology Officer Lisa Costa said during an agreement signing ceremony on the Tempe campus June 7.


In addition to everyone enrolled in the Navy and Air Force programs, ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center supports over 10,500 military-affiliated students pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees on campus and online. These students include veterans, active-duty members, guard, reservists and family members using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Find more information about ASU’s military programs at

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

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