Richard Edwin Matthews
Washington Adventist University
Program Type/Area of Study: Master of Arts in Religion, Metropolitan Ministry and Ethical Leadership
Military Branch: U.S. Army
Years Served: 20 years
Highest Pay Grade: Lieutenant Colonel
MOS: Military Intelligence
Tell us about yourself:
I am a son, brother, father, husband, uncle, and friend. I have served God and Country for almost 30 years. I followed in my father’s footsteps in joining the U.S. Army and have traveled the world, enhanced my education and made a difference for the nation, my God, my Church, and my family.
What prompted you to return to school?
I have a thirst for learning, and have always felt the call to service and the ministry. I chose to go to Washington Adventist University to satisfy that calling. The 9/11 Education Act affords veterans the opportunity to fund continued education, and I encourage all veterans to take advantage of this important benefit.
Why did you choose Washington Adventist University?
I chose Washington Adventist University because it has an excellent program of higher learning, is conveniently located in the DC area, and I was able to continue my day job and still go to school at night and on weekends. Evening classes don’t start until 6 p.m. to accommodate working adults, and the accelerated schedule allows students to earn their undergraduate or graduate degree quickly. I also appreciated that the programs at Washington Adventist University are — in the Adventist tradition — infused with a sense of service, spirituality and vitality, which sustains strength in mind, body and soul.
What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use?
I took advantage of 9/11 Act, which offers an education benefit program for individuals who served on active duty after September 10, 2001. The VA-administered program includes benefits not available in other GI programs, including payment of full resident tuition and fees at certain schools and transference of educational benefits to a spouse or child.
What has your experience been like as a student or alumnus?
My experience at Washington Adventist University has been one of the most defining educational times of my life. I enjoyed sharing my own life experiences in class, and was also able to learn from my peers and professors. If we are not learning something new every day of our lives, we are merely existing. Learning is a lifelong vocation. Although Washington Adventist University serves students of all faiths, it was especially fulfilling for me to study at the institution where some of the great pioneers of my church were educated.
What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?
It was a smooth transition between military life and campus culture, and I found no challenges in adjusting. I felt welcome and appreciated on campus, and the Finance Office was able to process my paperwork quickly so that my tuition was paid and I received my monthly stipend. I graduated without any outstanding bills, which means a lot when you hear so much about student debt elsewhere. The Religion Department was very helpful and accommodating. I even took one class while in Afghanistan and emailed my papers to the professor. It all worked seamlessly.
Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?
Yes, I absolutely believe my military experience has helped, as I already knew how to get things done. I knew how to plan, budget my time, and write accurate and comprehensive papers. I also understood the importance of teamwork and caring about others. In the classroom, I took an active role in my classmates’ personal and professional development, and I valued their contributions to mine.
What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?
I advise veterans who are returning to school to take advantage of the learning opportunities available to them. Whether they have a desire to be a chaplain, heeding the call to service and the ministry, or are interested in another field, I urge them to consider Washington Adventist University. Small classes, supportive faculty and staff, and efforts to accommodate the needs of working adults ensure success on every level. Earning a new degree can be transformative, both professionally and personally.
I so enjoyed Washington Adventist University and my learning experience that I wish that I could start over and do it again. I learned much, had fun, and made life-long friends. I encourage anyone who wants to fulfill their potential and live their dream to consider a degree program at Washington Adventist University.