Defence masters degree opens doors

Gaining lifelong skill sets and an impressive qualification she didn’t even realise was available to her, Chief Petty Officer Michelle Keygan, a self-described “kid from the bush”, is proof that you should never underestimate yourself.

CAPTIONChief Petty Officer Michelle Keygan is studying with the ADFA Postgraduate Scheme while maintaining her training and development role at the Navy Recruit School, HMAS Cerberus, Victoria. Story by Lieutenant Rebecca Williamson. Photo by Leading Seaman James McDougall.

Hailing from the small country town of Kempsey, NSW, Chief Petty Officer Keygan’s interests were quickly sparked when a Defence Force recruiter came along just as she finished high school back in 2000.

“I chose the role of maritime logistics at the time as it offered the most civilian-recognised qualifications, and it was only a four-year tenure that promised opportunity to travel,” she said.

Four years quickly stretched into two decades and now Chief Petty Officer Keygan is getting ready to celebrate another great accomplishment thanks to a colleague and mentor who supported her in applying to the Australia Defence Force Academy – Postgraduate program in 2020.

“The opportunity to complete postgraduate studies was something I didn’t realise was available to me nor was I even confident that I had the ability to complete and pass a masters,” said Chief Petty Officer Keygan.

“However, thanks to the support of my family, along with the support mechanisms available both from my work place and the University of NSW (UNSW), it means that I will be celebrating achieving a Masters of Business by November.”

Chief Petty Officer Keygan attributes her success, in part, to the supportive network of students and professors and believes the problem-solving tactics she learnt from them are lifelong skill sets that can be applied to the majority of tasks she comes across.

“The study has changed the way I think both professionally and personally,” Chief Petty Officer Keygan explained.

“When you are studying and setting aside specific times and deadlines for subjects, it really enforces a new level of self-discipline.

“Especially when you are combining it with full-time work, a family with three kids and two fur babies.

“My written administration has improved beyond what I ever thought I could achieve, and when I look back at pre-study documents I had created, I just can’t believe how far I have come.”

Having finished high school in 1999, Chief Petty Officer Keygan admits the first semester was very daunting but says she was not alone.  Everyone studying that subject is in the same boat – just trying to figure it out as an adult learner.

Her advice to anyone considering study is not to be deterred by being out of the education system for a while.

“What this opportunity has shown me is that you should never underestimate yourself, because I really have surpassed my own expectations and am really proud of my achievements,” Chief Petty Officer Keygan said.

She is looking forward to finishing her degree in November, celebrating with her fellow students, and looking to the future and the new opportunities this qualification will open.

The ADFA Postgraduate Scheme is aimed at developing the skills of all Defence personnel including Australian Public Service members.

This includes  Defence-funded postgraduate places at the UNSW Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy.

ADFA Postgraduate programs may be undertaken through intensive or distance education modes.

Under the agreement between the Commonwealth and UNSW Canberra at ADFA, full tuition fee funding is available for some courses.


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