Although he grew up in a military household, with a father who was in the Air Force for 20 years, School of Education graduate Arcadio Avalos says it wasn’t until his freshman year at Texas A&M University that he knew his future would include a career in the military.
Earning his bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation administration with the help of an Army ROTC scholarship, Avalos graduated and was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army. Today, he is an active-duty captain, most recently based near Seattle, Washington.
“I love what I do; I have a passion for the military,” said Avalos. “Any of my professors who had a class with me could tell you how I related everything back to it.”
Passion for training, facilitation
After eight years of service, the Army offered Avalos the option to return to school to earn his master’s degree, presenting a variety of institutions and degrees from which to choose. He looked for a program that would help him make a positive impact in his position as an officer, especially in his role as a training facilitator.
“I come from a background of educators,” he said. “Education has always been in my life — my mom, both my grandmothers, and my sister are in education. And I’ve always loved facilitating and being in that training role.”
Avalos says he chose to pursue an Adult Education and Training degree before choosing a university.
“When I saw ‘Adult Education and Training,’ I knew that was it—that was the one.”
According to the terms of his agreement with the Army, Avalos was required to apply to a minimum of three institutions.
“When I applied to programs,” he said, “I got on the phone and contacted each school, telling them they’d see an application come through and that it was going to be very non-traditional, and asking how they would be willing to work with me.”
He chose the AET specialization at Colorado State University because of the people. “The program here was willing to work with me — not all of them were. I felt accepted before I was even accepted into the school. My adviser and the faculty here were willing to work with me from day one.”
From soldier to student
The transition from “Army captain” to “master’s degree student” was a lot smoother than Avalos expected.
“I graduated in 2008, and have been in the Army for eight years. I was excited, but I was terrified about coming back to school,” admitted Avalos. “I was worried about how the classroom environment had changed, what the peer group was going to look like, how would I interact with them — but the program was very diverse; the students came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. It ended up being fine.”
Aside from learning processes and methods for teaching and training adults, the biggest skill he learned as an AET student, said Avalos, is that of self-reflection.
“Being able to step back and look at myself in new environments, and ask, ‘How can I learn from this, what can I take from this and grow as a person?’ Moving out of my comfort zone, and learning how to communicate and approach those in the service and outside the service — that’s something I’ll use all the time.”
Returning to the military
While he has been considered active-duty throughout his time as a student, Avalos has been able to take a break from his responsibilities as captain. Now that he has graduated, he says he’s excited to return to military life and ready to apply his new skills to a new challenge as an observer and trainer for units cycling through a training rotation at a base in Louisiana.
“In the Army, we go into training cycles that prepare us to do whatever it is we have to do long-term,” said Avalos. “What I’m hoping to do is to have an immediate impact by implementing training methods, weaving them into what we’re doing, without people even noticing that it’s there. The goal is to emphasize these processes and methods across the organization I have influence on, creating learning opportunities wherever I can.”
Life as an AET master’s student has been a cool experience, said Avalos.
“I’m glad to be done, but I’ll miss it.”
The Adult Education and Training specialization is part of the School of Education in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.