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ALU Alumnus Laura Dryden on Getting a Masters Degree while on Active Duty

How realistic is it to get a Master’s degree while on active duty? A great example of one of Abraham Lincoln University’s many amazing students, dynamo and new mom Laura Dryden did both while she was pregnant and having a baby! Find out how she managed these challenges while earning her Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on coaching.

Laura Dryden is a Master Sergeant in the Air Force with over 18 years of experience. Her professional focus is on intelligence training and management. Laura received her Master of Business Administration degree with an emphasis on coaching from Abraham Lincoln University’s 100% online program in 2019.

My name is Laura Dryden, and I’m getting my MBA today — Master of Business Administration with an emphasis on coaching.

You’ve got an impressive background in the service. We would love to hear about your journey with the Air Force. What lessons in your ascension to Master Sergeant were you able to translate to your pursuit of an MBA with ALU?

So, I am currently active duty in the Air Force. I’ve been serving almost 18 years and my field is in intelligence studies — but I’m a master sergeant, and so that’s pretty much a managerial position. So I chose to get a master’s in business admin to just kind of emphasize my managerial side and also work on leadership with the coaching side.

How do you see your path unfolding after you leave the service?

Some certifications that I want to have, to kind of broaden my degree a little bit, is to have a product management certification, and also a Six Sigma certification, because to go on a third degree a lot of employers are also looking for supplications and those are really desirable with the management degree.

How did you balance being on active duty with the responsibilities associated with earning a graduate degree?

Being on active duty and having the responsibilities of a student — I don’t feel like it’s very difficult at all. It can be difficult if you deploy or you’re in the Navy or some other remote location where you don’t have the internet, but as long as I have an internet connection no matter where I go, I was able to complete my school.

But the hardest part was being pregnant and having a baby while on active duty and doing college. That was the hard part. The rest of it was easy.

What skills has your education with ALU taught you? How will you integrate these skills into your work with the Air Force? When your time with the Air Force has come to its conclusion, where do you see your career going?

The biggest takeaways I have are working with project management — actually when I was taking my project management course I was working on a, like large-scale for my military base — big project — to upgrade our infrastructure, and so when they were bringing all these different ideas and concepts I was like “oh I know what this is — this is what they should be doing.” And so I was able to be more informed and then tell my boss “hey this is really what we need”, or “we should do this — he’s being too specific — he needs to listen to our needs”.

And that really helped, but with the everyday job part, it was the coaching classes that really hit the home run, because coaching is different than really what they teach us in the Air Force. Air Force really wants to focus on mentorship, but coaching is a different type of mentorship. It’s a lot more deliberate in my opinion. It’s very structured, and there’s lots of tools that I learned about that I can apply to help my Airmen become better people.

Do you have any parting thoughts that you would like to share with us?

Really what I loved about ALU was all the support that I had when I was having my baby. It’s a big thank you to the staff. I was on bed rest for nearly two months, and then when I had my baby they reached out to me. They were so accommodating. I had some great instructors at the time. There was Dr. Jill Bonds — and she was just phenomenal.

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