In Kent Dolasky’s Barracks, the Universe was His…
‘02 alumnus will soon have MBA to go with Bronze Star
Hard at work in his quarters while others were resting was Special Forces soldier Kent Dolasky, as committed to his university studies as he was to service to his country. On December 14, 2006, Dolasky will proudly walk the stage to receive yet another special honor to complement his Bronze Star – a master of business administration through UIW’s virtual learning program, Universe Online.
When Dolasky joined UIW, he was a pioneer in a brand new program. The Army Education’s eArmyU selected a group of 29 schools known for their quality online programs to build a consortium to serve the needs of soldiers like Dolasky. Prior to this program, Dolasky found it difficult to finish his degree because of extensive military duties and relocation. “With the Universe Online, I was able to go to college, even while traveling the world with the U.S. Army,” said Dolasky.
The eArmyU program was so successful in enabling U.S. soldiers to meet their higher education goals that Army Education decided to take the portal technology Army-wide in 2000. Soldiers who want to take classes on a base, at a university or online can do so by logging into the “GoArmyEd” portal and signing up for classes. Invitations to participate in the expanded network were extended to 120 schools that had track records of providing quality educational programs, as well as high levels of soldier satisfaction. UIW was one of the schools to receive the Army’s invitation and join the GoArmyEd network of schools.
Kent's free time with his kids takes on new meaning since returning home.
Dolasky enrolled in UIW through the Army’s original eArmyU program back in April 2001 after attending three institutions and collecting 119 transfer hours. The eArmyU network enabled him to finally settle with one school and finish his degree. “I have many friends involved in online learning at various schools, but UIW’s marketing program was what attracted me,” said Dolasky. “And they accepted 119 of the 120 hours I had earned elsewhere.” Ultimately, Dolasky became UIW’s first eArmyU graduate in December 2002, receiving a bachelor of business administration with an impressive grade-point average.
He continued his coursework as he and his Special Forces team performed lengthy training exercises in preparation for operations in Iraq. Dolasky returned to the states to join his family for his December graduation. He walked the stage, toured the campus and met several of his favorite classmates. It was a short break, as soldier Dolasky was called back to the desert in January 2003 just before the start of the war.
While on active duty in the Middle East, Kent began pursuing a graduate degree on Universe Online and accomplished the bulk of his courses in the desert. “Kent is the most dedicated student I’ve ever worked with, “said Dr. Cyndi Wilson Porter, dean of the Virtual University. ”He worked on graduate coursework in a tent in the desert while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average, even while engaged in military activities that would ultimately earn him a Bronze Star.”
He continued his studies throughout his transition back to the states, and this December, he will graduate once more -- this time with a perfect grade-point average. But that’s not his only honor this year.
On March 13, 2006, Dolasky’s outstanding service to his country was recognized with a Bronze Star for Valor and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat. He and his team from the 5th Special Forces Group repelled enemy combatants in Al Kut, Iraq. Dolasky protected his unit while under fire, even after suffering the blast effects of a nearby explosion.
When enemy forces surrounded the Governor’s headquarters in southern Iraq, the Governor of the Wasit Province requested help to hold off the militia. Dolasky organized personnel and equipment in quick response and led a convoy of trucks from their camp toward the city.
When they crossed the first bridge into town, his unit came under sniper fire from an industrial complex across the river. During the exchange, Dolasky’s vehicle was hit and he was injured. Covered with debris and stunned, he forced himself back up and held back attackers while the rear trucks moved to safety.
Fortunately for Dolasky and many others, a simple click of the computer is all it now takes for students from virtually anywhere in the world to access an online education at UIW. Universe Online is devoted to educating students who might not otherwise be able to pursue a college education because of geographic location, scheduling difficulties, personal responsibilities or any other reason. The curriculum stresses the importance of liberal studies and features an accelerated format so students may complete their degrees quickly – and affordably.
UIW’s virtual program debuted in 2000 with 16 students. Today, nearly 900 students registered across the globe every term can capture the universe for their own. Universe Online gained national acclaim in 2001 when U.S. News & World Report cited the online graduate business program as one of the best in the country. UIW consistently rates in the top 10 in terms of eArmyU student enrollment. Other institutions taking part in GoArmyEd’s program are Penn State University, the University of Washington and Florida State University.
For more information about Universe Online, visit www.uiw.edu/online.
When they returned to base, Dolasky quickly coordinated medical attention for the casualties and helped devise a response plan from an alternate route. As his team rolled back out, they were attacked but Dolasky was able to clear a route to a planned point at the rear wall of the industrial complex. They breached the wall, moved their vehicles in and headed for a tall grain elevator used by the opposition. While in the elevator, fire broke out. Dolasky directed the men to evacuate as he remained to secure the communication equipment.
Once outside, Dolasky regrouped to secure a blockade at the first bridge so his team could defend the vantage point and call in air support. He directed vehicles back across the bridge to help destroy two enemy-controlled buildings. His actions proved successful – and earned him the Bronze Star.
Sounding much like the plot of an action movie, Dolasky was engaged in almost 10 hours of continuous enemy contact that day. The Army praised his valor, gallant conduct and steadfast performance of duty as being in keeping with the highest traditions of military service in the United States Army.
If he continues the same level of performance in the final course for his MBA, he will surely graduate with honors.
Dolasky’s fellow students and his teachers frequently remark that he is a major asset to every class and a strong supporter of the online program. “I speak about the program every day to someone,” he said. “With the Universe Online, the universe was mine.” Asked if he would recommend the Army-UIW partnership to others, he commented: “I would and I do.”
“UIW is unique in the way instructors take time to read a student’s thoughts on a subject in essay format, then grade the student according to the depth and breadth of the answers, rather than by multiple-choice answers alone,” he continued. “Aside from that, UIW has been flexible with my military schedule and allowed me to drop my first graduate class when I was suddenly deployed, then pick it up again the following semester. I believe the quality education I received gave me the foundation I needed for my promotion a while back to master sergeant.”
Today, Dolasky is an instructor at the Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Academy (ANCOC) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “Now I instruct advanced skill classes for the Special Warfare Center and School’s Advanced Non-Commissioned Officers Course to help prepare senior Special Forces NCOs for their next level of leadership.”
Dolasky enjoys time with his wife Lana and two children: daughter Lilyann, age seven, and son, Kent, Jr., age three and a half, who have celebrated his accomplishments every step of the way. “They are proud and they understand the sacrifices my endeavors have required.” Dolasky’s family will join him in San Antonio for his upcoming graduation ceremony.
What’s next for him? “My goal is to give something back to the program that gave me so much and become a virtual instructor on UIW’s Universe Online,” he said. Dolasky estimates about five more years of military service and then he would like to join his brother’s business in Kansas City, Missouri, importing décor items. Whatever path he chooses, he will surely excel.