Jackie McKennie and James Grady

Jackie McKennie and James Grady

Jackie Mckennie and James Grady
Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management, 2011

Active and Former Military




“I wouldn’t have received the promotion without my degree."




Jackie Mckennie, 60, made the decision to pursue her college education years ago, when she was first starting her career in the military. However, with children to raise and a demanding military job, she found attending class to be a challenge. “Once online courses became a possibility, I again looked into earning my degree.” She chose Ashford University after her son, James Grady, 40, who was attending himself, described his experience to her. At the time, she was an active duty army Sergeant Major and he was an active duty First Sergeant.

Today, they each hold a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Management degree from Ashford, and both have experienced dramatic career successes because of it. After Jackie retired from the military, her old position was posted as a civilian position; she competed against more than 60 applicants, went through the interview process, and was hired for the job. And James received a promotion to the highest enlisted rank he can hold as Logistics Sergeant Major of the Georgia Army National Guard.

For this achievement, James was recently interviewed by Black Enterprise Magazine. He told them that his annual pay jumped by almost $25,000, saying, “I wouldn’t have received the promotion without my degree…the points I received for my degree, along with points for military education, made the difference between first and second place for the position of sergeant major.”

Jackie and James said their most difficult challenge while pursuing their degrees was staying focused on schoolwork while maintaining their roles in the military. Jackie explained, “It was difficult to concentrate on my studies when I was constantly sending soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when James was in Afghanistan.” But Jackie remained determined and focused, and soon found that the people who she worried about were also her motivation. “I wanted to show my children, and the soldiers I supervised as a Sergeant Major, that it is never too late.”

James was one of those people who both inspired and worried his mother. “I was in Kabul, Afghanistan while completing my degree. Once I was doing my homework and a suicide bomber killed himself with a 200-pound bomb less than 100 yards away from me. It is hard to think about a paper when you’ve come that close to being hurt, but I made it through.”

Both reported that they were able to apply the lessons they learned from the courses to the workplace almost from day one. While still enrolled, Jackie said, “My life has changed…I learned to become a better manager of my soldiers,” while James expressed a similar sentiment. Little did they know how dramatically their careers would be improved shortly after their commencement day, which they attended together in April 2011 in Clinton, IA.

To anyone considering enrolling at Ashford, Jackie says, “Ashford is a University that caters not only to the military, but also to students as a whole. The instructors and fellow students are helpful - although we did not see each other, and only knew each other from the introductions we posted, there was a great camaraderie in the classes. We were all trying to help each other succeed.” James adds, “A degree worth having will require some dedication, but if you are looking for a great learning experience that caters to the student, Ashford is where you want to be. They will give you the tools for you to do your best.”