When Blake Stiles graduated with a degree in Organizational Leadership from Penn State World Campus this summer, he marked the completion of “a 24-month rollercoaster ride that has been a wonderful milestone” in his life, he says.
Blake completed a four-year enlistment with the U.S. Marine Corps in October 2008. His military service had taken him all over the world to locations including Iraq, Kuwait, and Korea. Excelling in marksmanship, leadership and strategic planning, Blake was promoted to Non-Commissioned Officer—a promotion he says gave him “the foundation for the confidence and motivation to excel in everything” he does in life.
In fall 2009, Blake decided to embark on a new life goal, furthering his education, using the same type of strategy and motivation that served him well in the Marine Corps. He researched the G.I. Bill, which provides education benefits for veterans and military personnel, and discovered that it would cover three years of education.
Rather than use the entire benefit for a bachelor’s degree, Blake wanted to save some benefits for a graduate degree as well. So he embarked on a plan to earn his undergraduate degree in two years.
With the support and assistance of his academic adviser, Todd Lawton, Blake set about to achieve this ambitious and challenging goal.
The labor-related courses he took in his first few semesters made Blake realize he wanted to pursue a focus in Organizational Leadership. Excelling in these classes started to become fun and the more he took classes, the more he could evaluate current events, his military career, and the situations within the companies in his community.
“My complete outlook on life was impacted by courses such as Conflict Resolution and Policy Making in the United States. Because the staff was so highly regarded and the curriculum was presented in such an inspiring way, I found myself meeting all the expectations of the professors and receiving honors from the Dean’s List as well,” he says.
In fall 2010, Blake decided to take the LSAT (the entrance exam for law school). Law school admissions staff were skeptical when they realized he still needed to complete 45 credit hours for his undergraduate degree and only had two semesters left in school, but he wanted to stick to his plan.
“They knew from my entrance essay that I had a goal and nothing had stopped me before.” Blake was accepted to the Juris Doctorate program contingent on completion of his bachelor’s degree with a 3.5 grade-point average or higher. He will start law school at the University of Houston, spring 2012.
While in school, Blake somehow also found time to pursue the love of his life, Claire. “She has been my biggest supporter in this endeavor and I know that she will be with me for a lifetime and more,” he says.
Blake says he hopes others can find inspiration in his story.
“If you put your mind to something, with a little planning and motivation, not even the largest mountains can stop you from reaching your goals. I encourage the freshmen and sophomores to become best friends with their academic advisers and allow them to work beside you on accomplishing your goals. I also want to motivate the Penn State graduates, because much like being named a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Marine Corps, being part of the Penn State alumni should establish confidence and motivation to succeed in anything we do from this point forward. WE ARE PENN STATE!”