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SHSU Online Student Tam Pham

Tam Pham is currently pursuing at Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice while serving in the U.S. Army.

A first-generation American, Tam Pham’s parents came to the United States after the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.   The youngest of three boys, Pham joined the U.S. Army immediately after high school, shocking his parents in the process.

“Coming from a middle-class family with strong Vietnamese roots, joining the service was out of the question,” says Pham. “So imagine my mother’s objection when I told her I was not going to college but instead enlisting.”

After many months of arguing then suffering through the silent treatment, Pham’s mom finally got a promise from her son.

“I promised her that I would pursue my degree when I was able, and I would not give up on my education,” says Pham.

And he hasn’t, turning to SHSU Online to help him keep that promise.

Pham, now 27, has been pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice for the past decade. He tried, and failed, to complete traditional courses while on base but his schedule simply wouldn’t allow it.

Pham is currently stationed in Oahu, Hawaii as a Squad Leader in a Light Infantry Battalion with the 25th Infantry Division. When he’s not on base, he can spend up to nine months in training followed by twelve months or more of overseas deployment.

“Many times I had to explain to my professors that I would be unable to turn in assignments because I would either be in a different state training or out of country,” says Pham. “It made a pursuit of a traditional education difficult.”

In 2012, Pham transferred to SHSU Online for its highly rated undergraduate criminal justice program and because online courses allowed him the flexibility to pursue his education along with his primary commitments.

Pham was also pleased with the support he received from recruiters in the Veteran’s Resource Center.

“I had honestly never had a Veteran Affairs rep that understood the complexity of how an active duty soldier’s life was and how to help me succeed in my future endeavor with SHSU.”

Still, Pham had to learn how to be a full-time online student with a full-time job.

“I believe to be an online student, there is a level of discipline and dedication to stay on track and complete your work,” says Pham. “Finding that balance came with time. It took a lot of growing up and deciding what a priority was and what was not.”

It helped to remember the promise he made to his mother and his own professional goals.

SHSU Online Student Tam Pham hiking

Tam Pham hiking in Oahu, where he is stationed.

“My mother has worked the same occupation for 30 years and has never complained once, and although I am the youngest of three, I will be the first to get a degree in our family,” says Pham. “I want to set a standard for my future family and show that although our lineage started off as refugees, you can still be so much more.”

When he graduates, Pham hopes to pursue a career in the Federal Law Enforcement sector and earning his degree online while completing his military service can help him do that.

“[My degree] also allows me several opportunities to pursue a career outside of the service so I don’t fall behind my peers in the job market. I’ll have the best of both worlds: a degree and experience.”

SHSU Online is proud to support active military students like Tam Pham as a military-friendly university, and we’re committed to supporting other student veterans with the very best in online programs at both undergraduate and graduate levels. We offer several online programs highly ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of 2014 Best Online Programs for Veterans, including Best Online Bachelor’s, Graduate Education and Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs. To see these and other degrees, visit our degree programs page.


Are you active military or a veteran?
Contact the Veterans Resource Center

How to Contact Us:
ABIII, room 116
Open Mon-Fri
8:00 am to 5:00 pm
Phone: 936.294.1046
Fax: 936.294.4921
Email: veterans@shsu.edu

1. Our Faculty and Students.  Without the dedicated faculty from all seven colleges and numerous programs across campus, there is no SHSU Online. Students pursue degrees online at SHSU because of the faculty’s dynamic programs, challenging curricula, and engaging coursework. But even more than that, it’s their commitment to student success. 

2. Steady Support. When you have ambitious goals, you have to be prepared to make them a reality. We’re thankful that SHSU’s leadership not only provides steady support but the right tools to make these goals a reality. That’s a powerful combination.

3. Ambitious Goals. Bigger isn’t always better, but better is always better. We’re grateful for the forward and ambitious thinking of SHSU and a leadership team that believes there is always room for improvement–for SHSU faculty who teach online, online students, and SHSU staff.

Halloween Party at Murff Building

4. Co-workers Who Dress. You never really know someone until you see him or her in a Halloween costume. At SHSU Online, we’re more than our job titles and we’re grateful for any opportunity to step away from our ordinary day to day to really get to know our fellow co-workers—whether it’s their creative costume idea, or their mean three-cheese macaroni and cheese recipe. What we discover about them often makes us like them even more.

5. New Leases. Change isn’t easy, but it’s always an adventure worth having. This past October, 75 percent of our staff moved into a new building just off campus. For the first time, the staff is interacting on a daily basis rather than an occasional one. There’s a snap, crackle, and pop in the air with all this creativity and talent under one roof. The result is more ideas, more creative exploration, and more good work.

career-change

It’s never too late to have the career you want!

Advancing your education or your career is not just an adventure for the young. No matter what your age or what you want to be, it’s never too late to have the career you want. Here are five tips to help you get started.

  1. Research Your Target Field/Industry: When online student Meredith Carey graduated with a BA in Sociology, she found herself ill-prepared for the job market. After getting a part-time job, she spent a lot of time researching what exactly she needed to get a research job in her field. She found out that it required more education and more hands-on experience. Research what kind of education and/or combination of experience that jobs in your field require.
  1. Research the Your Field/Industry Community: Meredith also immersed herself in the sociology community by attending conferences and seminars, and networking with others who already had jobs in the field she was trying to enter. This helped her expand her options in terms of where she might find a job—in academia, non-profits, or public research firms.
  1. Research What You Need: Before committing to a degree program, Meredith first identified what she could and couldn’t do. She couldn’t move, at least not at present. She needed to keep working her part-time job, not only for the income but also to maintain her health insurance. And she needed an accredited program that offered quality coursework balanced with plenty of hands-on experiences.
  1. Research Degree Programs: With all these needs in mind, Meredith researched colleges that offered programs that met her needs. In the end, she chose Sam Houston State University Online after checking off her needs list.
  1. Compare your present needs with your future hopes: Starting a new career often means starting over in a new town. What are you willing to sacrifice to follow your passion? Ask yourself (and your family): are you ready for a possible relocation? What are the salaries in your field as compared to what you make now? Can you handle a pay cut? Meredith knows that she’ll probably have to move to get a job in her field, but she and her husband are on the same page and are prepared for that eventuality.

Changing careers doesn’t have to be painful. Lay the groundwork by doing your research—not only in your target field or industry, but also by asking yourself some tough questions and you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way. Find out how online students Meredith Carey and David Davenport are using an online education to advance their careers.

Are you ready for a promotion or a career change? Explore our many online degree and certificate programs —it’s never too late to have the career you want!

Pursuing an advanced degree—no matter if you start at 18, 28 or 58—is a journey filled with great rewards and its fair share of challenges. One major challenge actually has nothing to do with, say, writing a paper or passing an exam; it’s about balance. How do you balance your education with everything else; that is, family, a full-time job, a second job, and a social life? Here are five tips to help get you started.

  1. Establishing a balance between your online education and everything else.

    Get some tips on balancing your online education with everything else in your life

    The Boy Scouts have it right: Be Prepared. That means planning ahead when assignments are due and in relation to what’s going on in the rest of your life. Don’t schedule doctor’s appointments for you and your three kids the day before a major exam, for example. Life can be unpredictable, but if you plan your week ahead of time, you’re in a position of power and can make adjustments as needed.

  2. Be Clear on What You Need and Communicate It. After all that planning, things sometimes can go awry. That’s why it’s important to let people know if you need help and how you need help. Do you need one precious hour to finish a paper before a getaway weekend? Do you need some encouragement and a kind word? Can someone put out the trash? Ask for help.
  3. Develop A Support Network. It does take a village! Your regular support network may be great at giving you encouragement but how are they are AP style? Or technical issues with your computer? Diversify your support network. Sometimes you only have problems that your professor or classmate can help you with. Other times, you might call on the friendly help desk at the library. Be sure to call on them when you need them.
  4. Listen to your Support Network. Sometimes the people who see us clearly are the ones looking in from the outside. If your family lets you know they see you’re overtaxed or maybe your work is suffering, listen when they tell you to take a break. They have your best interests at heart.
  5. Find and Use Your Tools. In this technological day and age you can be sure there’s an app for that. Start or join a Facebook support group with your classmates, add assignment due dates into your calendar and sync it with your smart phone. Take advantage of Blackboard Mobile to check in from anywhere using your phone or tablet. Find out what kind of tools help you and use them.

Just remember, don’t forgot to enjoy your educational journey: it’s the small, day to day successes that help you grow personally as well as academically.

Find out what these online students had to say about finding balance in their lives.