Columbia College-Guantanamo Bay student and Sigma Beta Delta inductee reflects on what drove him to pursue higher education

John Durrett
The following is a personal reflection written by Columbia College-Guantanamo Bay student John Durrett, who was recently inducted in Sigma Beta Delta honor society. Sigma Beta Delta is for juniors and seniors who rank in the top 20 percent of their class with at least a 3.5 GPA and have completed at least 30 credit hours at Columbia College toward their business administration degree.

Like many service members, I joined the military right after high school graduation. The lure of travel and adventure led me to a six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy. Toward the end of the enlistment, I decided that a high school diploma wasn’t enough for me and began my college career journey. I was able to earn my Associate of Arts prior to separation from the Navy, which prepared me for my next career move. 
I began employment with a major telecommunications company and quickly settled into civilian life.  After a three-year break from college, I embarked on the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. At about the same time, the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, and I decided that I was not through serving my country. I joined the Navy Reserves and began looking for opportunities to mobilize to active duty.
Opportunity knocked in 2005 when I mobilized to Guantanamo Bay for a year in support of the JTF mission. I loved the work, the camaraderie and the sense of purpose that I found lacking in the civilian sector. While I was mobilized, I decided to continue my studies and enrolled in Columbia College, participating in a mix of in-seat and online classes. The online classes provided me the flexibility to continue and complete coursework on my own schedule. In 2006, I bid good-bye to the active-duty lifestyle and resumed my previous employment in the civilian sector. 
Not even a week had gone by before I realized that I longed to return to Guantanamo and resume supporting the JTF. Luckily, my wife and I were able to find employment with a government contractor where we continue to serve to this day. I graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2007. After earning that degree, I again decided to take a two-year break from college. My pursuit of a master’s degree was precipitated by first-time fatherhood, which has since drastically and irrevocably changed my outlook on life. I was now responsible for another person and knew that I wanted to provide my children with the opportunities that I did not have as a child. Pursuing a graduate degree became part of that equation.
I was accepted into Columbia College’s MBA program in 2009 and look forward to graduating at the end of the year. I will admit that balancing work, family and school has been a challenge, and I have indulged in taking a semester off from time to time, one being for the birth of my second daughter. My hectic schedule consists attempting to exercise, going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, spending time with my family, and then putting my two precious daughters to bed. I usually do not even begin starting homework until 9 p.m. The belief that anything worth doing is worth doing well is a large driver behind my GPA.
My high GPA and induction into Sigma Beta Delta are really a shared success. I must give a lot of credit for my success to my wife, who has been extraordinarily generous with moral support and in picking up my slack. She always encourages me, helps keep me focused on the horizon and takes on extra household responsibilities without complaint, just to make sure I have time to devote on my studies. Being inducted into Sigma Beta Delta is an honor that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I know I will even use it to teach my children that hard work and sacrifice pay off. (I can already see them rolling their eyes!)