We would like to take the time to congratulate Shawn McCann on the successful defense of his dissertation with the Adult Learning and Leadership Doctoral program at Columbia University! Recently, we were able to sit down and speak with Shawn on this outstanding accomplishment.
Shawn! I guess the first question we want to ask is how are you feeling now that everything has come to fruition?
Well, I’m feeling slightly down now that the whole process is complete. So much time and energy was put into the research and this academic opportunity; I feel as though I should take the time to mourn the end of this chapter.
That feels entirely appropriate, we know this has been quite a journey for you. Can you tell us what your plans are moving forward?
I definitely see the academic work directly contributing to the cognitive and learning interventions we do here. There’s room to expand in my current role as Senior Scientist. I feel equipped to discern, for our clients, whether or not a need exists for a training, education, or cognitive intervention is warranted, and able to create such products.
Outside of this, I plan to continue conducting research and publishing in these areas.
What brought you, or inspired you to pursue this opportunity?
I was presented the chance to obtain a Master of Arts through the Marine Corps. During that time is when I believe I discovered a passion for learning, and for sharing that learning. Learning how to learn in the masters is what motivated me to continue with the doctoral program.
Well, it was the #1 university for adult education at the time when I applied. I thought, ‘If I get accepted then that will be the path I take’. I only applied to one school.
What obstacles did you face during this process?
I think the greatest obstacle was me. This process started as a means to an end. The initial goal was simply to earn the degree for career progression. Instead it grew into a journey based on the joy found in learning, and development. It was interesting—and fun—to use what I was learning professionally, and apply that personally as I was growing as a learner.
During this time, life happened. I had a daughter, three surgeries, retired from the Marines and moved four times. The academic work had personal relevance, and that allowed me to keep going as life continued to happen.
Your story is inspiring! Initially enlisting in the Marine Corps, and standing here with a terminal degree from an Ivy League University, what sort of advice or other words of wisdom might you have for Marines who might think opportunities such as this are out of reach?
Nothing is out of reach if you create an opportunity for yourself. This was an opportunity that was afforded me, through existing and long standing Marine Corps programs. All I had to do was apply. I applied to a commissioning program to earn a bachelor degree and thought that would be the end of it. The Marine Corps, I later discovered, also had a program for graduate degrees. I applied, and got accepted. There are so many different opportunities within the institution itself, as well as institutionally sponsored prospects outside the Marine Corps.
I would encourage Marines to actively seek out and discover those opportunities. Also, recognize that personal development is not a selfish endeavor. Never set limitations for yourself or assume that amazing opportunities are only for others.