Ashford University Student Goes Deep into the Academic Trenches; Emerges from Afghanistan with Bachelor's Degree


Just like any other working college student, Danny Staggs would find novel places to study between his regular work, travel and other distractions. But since his boss was the U.S. Air Force and the locations were at outposts in the most rugged parts of Afghanistan, Sgt. Staggs might be found studying in a secure camp, on the gun turret of a tactical vehicle, in a sandbagged trench close to enemy action, or covering himself with a water-proof and light-proof poncho and using a red light to read at night. He would also listen to his favorite music mix to shut out the many noises of a war zone.

The hard work and discipline paid off. Not only did Staggs receive the Army Combat Action Badge, the Afghan Campaign Medal with Bronze Star and various commendation medals, he earned his bachelor’s degree in social and criminal justice from Ashford University.

Pursuing his degree while deployed in military areas of operation involved dedication, creativity and discipline. Staggs loaded his 90-pound backpack with food, sleeping bag, water, extra ammunition, radio gear and other military tools of the trade, plus notes, lesson plans and study guides for his courses. He developed weekly study outlines and tried to keep at least one week ahead of his classmates to prepare for the periods of time when he would be without Internet access. The six-foot-five soldier also worked out regularly to maintain his “fighting weight” of 225 pounds (“Body fat of 8.7 percent,” he noted proudly).

Staggs said his professors at Ashford were very accommodating in developing different work-around procedures so he could access course information. Since his only Internet service was through a military connection, there were strict rules about downloading programs.

“Being on active duty in the Air Force and with deployments every six months, I needed the flexibility and convenience that Ashford University provided,” he said. “It was comforting to know that whenever I would pick up and deploy, I didn’t have to start over. Even if I had to take off a couple of weeks when being relocated, I was able to stay on track, I was going to the same school, and I was getting a good education.

“My degree will definitely help my career in the long run and the discipline required to keep up with my studies actually helped with my work for the Air Force,” Staggs said. “I was always good at multitasking. Pursuing the online degree with Ashford enhanced those skills, plus helped me psychologically. I was better able to think about what was going on all around us, understand it, rationalize it and move past it.”

In his Air Force career, Staggs studied all forms of weaponry, graduated from jump school and attended Air Force Special Operation University. His class work at Ashford University included corrections management, forensics, homeland security, political science and government and security management. He graduated from Ashford University’s undergraduate program in December 2010 and recently returned from his deployment. He is currently stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky and is furthering his career in the military by applying for Officer Training School. He lives with his wife and three children, near the base, in Elizabethtown.


About Ashford University

Founded in 1918, Ashford University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools ( The University offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs online and at its Clinton, Iowa, campus. The University is known for its high quality yet highly affordable online and on-campus programs. For more information, please visit or call Shari Rodriguez, associate vice president of Public Relations, at 858.513.9240 x2513.