GradImpact: Mission First, People Always

    Allene Osborn doesn’t want to make the story about her. “I have been incredibly blessed to have family and friends who have supported me along the way and I would never be able to do all the things I do without my children and husband sacrificing their time for me as well,” she says about her transition from military service to graduate school. “I am the one in grad school but really it is because of their support and love that I ever made it this far.”


    Self-sacrifice and care for others has defined Osborn’s character since she was a teenager. At age 18 she enlisted in the United States Air Force. She was honorably discharged from active service in 2007, but continued to serve in the Air Force reserves, the Washington Air National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard, rising to the rank of Master Sergeant and serving as a Geospatial Targeting Intelligence Instructor.


    When she left military service, however, Osborn struggled to find purpose. “When I chose to separate after completing my service obligation, I was at a point where I needed to find a purpose. Our son was very ill and I was battling physical injuries on top of depression and anxiety. I had been good at my job but felt lost and scared and didn't know how to get past the dark place I was in.” She decided to take a chance on education and, with the support of the GI Bill and Veterans Affairs VocRehab Program, began a bachelor’s degree in Children’s Studies at Eastern Washington University in 2012.


    While enrolled at EWU, Osborn was able to work with organizations that educated and mentored individuals to become advocates for themselves, their families, and their communities. She saw in these organizations the same values she cherished during her military service: “integrity, service, and excellence.” After finishing her bachelor’s in 2017, and with her passion rekindled, she decided that “earning a Master’s in Social Work seemed to be the next logical step.”


    Osborn has been struck by the continuity between her military service and her master’s program. She describes graduate school as feeling “like a natural extension of my military service.” As in the military, her program stresses the relationship between accomplishing tasks and taking care of the whole person. This continuity has helped her to see her own life holistically, stitching together her military and civilian lives into a single set of values.


    Osborn hopes to use her master’s degree in social work to give back to military or veteran families, particularly those families with children. She hopes that her work will help counter stigmas surrounding mental health issues for veterans and active duty military. She remembers how scary her own mental health issue was and “how empowering it felt to confront it.” She also saw how important access to mental health services were for her children. No longer lost, she is now a passionate advocate. “Outreach events where we help individuals and families get connected to resources, advocacy for individuals, families and services, engagement in policy work – I love it all” she says enthusiastically.


    At the root of her enthusiasm is an appreciation and love for others. She lauds the sacrifices her family has made for her to go to graduate school. This love extends to her military family, too. “I believe in our military veterans and their families and I can’t wait to support them as a thank you for all they have sacrificed.”


    Visit the GradImpact Feature Gallery to learn more about the amazing, innovative research being done by graduate students and alumni across the world.


    Photo Credit: Allene Osborn

    The CGS GRADIMPACT project draws from member examples to tell the larger story of graduate education. Our goal is to demonstrate the importance of graduate education not only to degree holders, but also to the communities where we live and work. Do you have a great story to share about the impact of master’s or doctoral education? Visit our WEBSITE for more information.


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