Walden’s Military Services Team Supports Military-Connected Students

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In honor of Veterans Day, the Career Services Center sends a “Thank you” to all of Walden’s veteran and military-connected students for their service and our colleagues in Walden’s Military Services Department for the student support that they provide.

Walden’s Military Services team of five is dedicated and committed to supporting 5000 students through the complex process of navigating military educational benefits with all of the requisite forms and processes. When students are called for active military deployment during a term, they offer guidance on steps to manage the intersection of military and academic requirements.

The Director of Walden’s Military Services, Jon Lovald, served for 25 years in the US Army and Army National Guard. During his military career, Jon was initially trained in logistics. As his responsibility for the health, wellness, and training of up to 500 fellow soldiers increased, he was recognized for his communication and leadership skills. This recognition and his interest in the “people” side of organizations led to a transition from logistics to human resources.

When Jon left the military, he made the change to a civilian life by reaching out and connecting with former military colleagues, especially those in a leadership role, for advice. He also attended American Corporate Partners, VFW, and American Legion events, and he used LinkedIn to stay connected, build new connections, and follow organizations.

As Director of Walden’s Military Services, Jon leads a team of experts on military educational benefits and policies. Team members, Ann Tao, Fatima Benkhadda, Molly Kvam, and John Tripp, have in-depth knowledge of the distinct eligibility requirements and application processes of the different GI Bills.  In addition to assisting students directly, they educate and guide Walden staff and faculty on the unique issues and challenges faced by military-connected students.

Jon advises that all military-connected students should be sure to inform Walden of their military connection and visit the Walden Military Services website to learn more about the team and how they can support military-connected learners. For more information, visit the Walden Military Services website.

For information on transitioning from a military to a civilian career, visit the Career Services Center resources for veterans.

A special “Thank you” to Jon Lovald for his service and for sharing his story and information about Walden’s Military Services!

Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor




Making Positive Social Change through Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse


Ramona has a master’s degree in Psychology from Walden and is now pursuing her PhD in Clinical Psychology.  She has a background in the helping professions, having earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Service Administration and worked as a correctional nurse and in drug and alcohol treatment programs for many years.  Her long-term goal is to become a licensed psychologist.

Six years ago, Ramona started helping victims of domestic abuse when she offered shelter in her home to a woman, who had been battered by her spouse, and her child. That sparked her to lay the foundation to build a non-profit organization called Brighter Horizon.  Its mission is, “No woman left behind.”  Ramona states that Brighter Horizon “will strive to make sure that women get the help that they need to be stable mothers and not to be faced with domestic violence in the home while raising their children. Our goals are to provide shelter, counseling, healthcare, childcare, and permanent housing placement.  I would also like to address these issues not only in the state of New Jersey but I have future plans to build at least one program in each state.”

Two of the Board members for her non-profit have passion and experience working with victims of domestic abuse.  For the past three years, Ramona has worked with a team to develop her business plan.  Her current focus is to raise funds to buy a residential shelter that will offer transitional housing, childcare, counseling services, medical, and dental for up to five families. As a mother of five children ages 2 to 15 and a domestic violence survivor, Ramona aims to support mothers with proper resources so they can raise their children in healthy homes.

For more information, please visit the Brighter Horizon website at: http://www.brighterhorizonnj.org and email Ramona at: brighterhorizonnj@yahoo.com.

We thank Ramona for sharing her story of social change and wish her the best with expanding her evolving non-profit organization.

Written by Lisa Cook, Senior Director of Career Services


Social Change and Professional Growth Through Volunteering


During the Walden Social Change Networking event on July 21, I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Ebony Cray, a Walden student in the MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. During our online chat, I learned that Ebony is an active volunteer in her community. She is on the Board of Directors for OMEP-USA, an “organization dedicated to advocating for children’s rights and high-quality education for children.” She also started World Advocates for Children and Families, LLC, (WAFCAF),  where she offers free resources and guidance for families in need, and she has been a Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) volunteer for three years. Her volunteer work is in addition to her full-time position as a teacher and program coordinator for a child development center. Our conversation focused on her work with CASA.

As a CASA volunteer, Ebony’s role is to guide, support, and advocate for abused and neglected children who are involved in the court system. To become a CASA volunteer, Ebony submitted an application and went through an interview process. Once accepted, she received extensive training on how to navigate the court system, collaborate with attorneys and social service agencies, and most important ― “advocate for children’s best interests.”

After completing the CASA training, Ebony was assigned to a case involving two young brothers. She has been with their case for three years. She meets with the brothers monthly, attends court hearings, communicates with the children’s attorney, writes reports, and advocates for the brothers before the judge. As their advocate, Ebony has built a bond of trust with the brothers. She described her relationship as one that will “tug at your heart strings.” In 2015, Ebony was awarded a CASA scholarship to attend the National CASA conference where she connected with other CASA volunteers and learned more about family law and advocacy. She also attended her state’s annual CASA Day at the Capitol event to learn more about current and proposed legislation that affects children in foster care and CASA programs.

Ebony is a CASA volunteer because she both believes in positive social change and she wants to take an active role in making change happen. Through volunteering, she is strengthening her professional skills, learning about the “plight of others” in her community, making connections, and becoming an adept and persuasive leader for families.

The Career Services Center thanks Ebony for sharing her story, and we wish her continued success in her academic program and career!

To explore the positive impact volunteering can have on your career, view the Career Services Center archived webinar: Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering

Written by Denise Pranke, Senior Career Services Advisor



Success Story: Dr. Janice Hawkins

Janice Hawkins

It’s always nice to hear a success story, right? Well, success is definitely something that comes to mind when hearing about the post-graduation life of a Walden University alumna—Dr. Janice Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins graduated from Walden University in 2013 with a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration. She has experience in child welfare in New York City, and has worked in diverse positions from caseworker up to administration. Since graduation, she has been involved with many organizations and presented at several conferences.

Dr. Hawkins saw speaking at conferences as a way to nationally establish herself professionally. National and Regional conferences typically turn out guests and members from all across the country. Being able to present your research or papers at one of these events is definitely a great way to get your name out there and let your voice be heard.

In addition to establishing herself professionally, Dr. Hawkins really wanted to affect social change. She felt that there needed to be more understanding between clients and those who write the policies affecting those clients.  She started out by doing workshops for parents at local public schools and then began presenting at various conferences. She has given presentations on many topics including: “What To Do When Children Protective Services Knocks on Your Door?” and “Is Social Welfare Best Practice for Children as Fueled or Deterred by Outside Influences such as the Media?”

Dr. Hawkins is presenting at the National Association of Social Workers National Conference in Washington, D.C. this summer. Her topic is “Social Work and Developing Effective Advocacy in Your Social Work Practice.”  When asked about her presentation, Dr. Hawkins said, “Effective advocates can influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public on the changes they want to bring for their families. My talk is about how can we do this.”

Are you interested in presenting at a conference? Well, Dr. Hawkins has some advice for you! She mentioned that the following things will be helpful:

  • Get on the mailing lists of any organizations or groups that are in your interest area.
  • Write, write, write comments, blogs, letters to the editor, columns, books. This helps establish you as an expert in your area.
  • Join at least one professional organization.
  • Go to workshops when you can to familiarize yourselves with how they run.
  • Be open to doing “freebies.”

For more ideas on ways to impact positive social change, view the Career Services Center archived webinars in the Social Change Series.

Written by Samantha Shore, Walden Career Services Center Intern

Samantha Shore


Perseverance Pays Off When Seeking a Practicum Site

Chukwuemeka Obi

How do you land a practicum at a competitive field site such as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH)?  MPH alumnus and PhD in Public Health student, Chukwuemeka Obi, sums up his success in one word:  Perseverance.  Chukwuemeka’s diligent practicum search helped him maximize his Walden program, gain valuable public health experience in obesity prevention, and earn a promotion.

What steps did Chukwuemeka take to land his practicum site?

Knocking on Many Doors
Prior to applying at the DPH, Chukwuemeka researched five community centers in the Los Angeles area.  He contacted these centers and requested to speak with their field officers to learn more about the work their clinics were doing in the Los Angeles area.  He landed several informational interviews where he shared his knowledge of public health, his passion for social change, and the research he conducted at Walden.  These initial contacts helped him gain a deeper understanding of public health issues in the Los Angeles area.  When he applied to the DPH, he brought in-depth knowledge that helped him stand out from other applicants.

Not Taking “No” for an Answer
When Chukwuemeka submitted his application and practicum requirements to the DPH, he was initially told that Walden was not on the list of local area colleges/universities.  How was Chukwuemeka able to educate the DPH on the quality of his Walden program and land a selective practicum over other highly- qualified candidates?  Chukwuemeka proved that he was the best candidate by sharing examples of his academic work including a presentation he created for one of his classes on infectious disease prevention, research on early childhood obesity, writing samples, and copies of online discussions. He also emphasized Walden’s commitment to social change in the field of public health.  The DPH’s field coordinator was impressed by Chukwuemeka’s level of knowledge and education.  After two months, Chukwuemeka’s persistence paid off; the DPH contacted Chukwuemeka and arranged a practicum for him in collaboration with the Affordable Care 411 Network.  As a part of his practicum experience, he was posted at the Martin Luther King Center for Public Health in Compton, California, where he delivered health-related presentations to community members.

Bridging Experience and Education
The hands-on public health experience Chukwuemeka acquired through his practicum helped him complete his Master of Public Health degree and advance into a Program Director position at Hopeful Steps Foundation Incorporated, a Los Angeles- based nonprofit organization.  Chukwuemeka continues to evolve as a nonprofit leader and has started the next chapter in his academic career by pursuing his PhD in Public Health.

What advice does Chukwuemeka have for Walden students?  He recommends starting the practicum search early, researching multiple locations, and proactively networking with field officers.  He states, “There are many places where you are needed.  Consider how the knowledge you’ve gained in your classes can be applied in the field and always ask to speak with decision makers.”

Wondering how to best market yourself and your Walden program to potential field sites?  Watch webinar recordings on our Field Experience page.

Want to learn more about nonprofit leadership?  Listen to Chukwuemeka’s story and visit the Nonprofit page.

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Dina Bergren

Connecting with DBA Colleagues at Residency

DBA Residency students February 2016

Recently I completed a four-day academic residency with highly talented and motivated Doctor of Business Administration students who want to make the world a better place. Pictured above are some of the students I have had the privilege of getting to know the past four days in Anaheim, California.

I am in awe of my DBA colleagues. They are rock stars in their fields! I appreciate the collegiality, the motivation, and the humor we shared the past four days, culminating in a terrific video to be posted on YouTube. (Our group pictured above will get the prize for best class video – no doubt about it!)

Additionally, I highly value the wisdom and mentoring from our two faculty members who facilitated our daily morning residency sessions. They walked us through the doctoral study process from problem statement to the review process to finishing our papers. With their support, we are leaving this residency with new mentors and friends to talk us through this journey and a much more solid hold on our research topics.

Here is a sample of DBA students’ research topics planned in support of positive social change: recruiting more women of color into STEM occupations, engaging employees to promote greater productivity, using supply chain management to improve emergency disaster responses, and many more.

To the wonderful colleagues I met at this residency, if I can support your success through this journey, I’m just an email or phone call away. I wish all of you the best of luck in our doctoral journeys.

You all are truly rock stars and I admire your drive and passion to make the world a better place!

Lisa Cook, DBA expected 2019

Walking Our Talk through Presenting to Local Career Development Colleagues

Social Change image of hands

Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services, and Denise Pranke, Career Services Advisor, presented Maximizing Career Success Through Strategic Volunteering at a Career Planning and Adult Development (CPAD) meeting in Minneapolis, MN.  As we often advise our students to make professional presentations, we would like you to know we follow our own advice.

Dina Bergren and Denise Pranke

We shared the following key points:

Keeping these key points in mind, consider how you can incorporate strategic volunteering into your career management strategy to:

  • Gain marketable skills and experience relevant to your field
  • Build networking connections
  • Strengthen your professional image (or brand)

What skills and experience can you build through volunteering?  Refer to the HandsOn Network Professional Skills matrix for ideas at: http://www.handsonnetwork.org/files/resources/Professional_Skills_Matrix.pdf

Are you seeking local, national, international or virtual volunteer opportunities?  Find the right fit for you by using the following Career Services Center resources:

Search for opportunities on the Career Services Center’s  Volunteer Opportunities page.

View the archived webinar:  Strategic Volunteering for Career Success.

Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services, and Denise Pranke, Career Services Advisor