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Austin Hayes, with his degree

Retired pilot earns BA at 84

Military Support Office at U of M provides academic credit for military service

August 7, 2019 — 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Austin Hayes was short one math credit to earn his BA, and he actually gave up on it for two years. Then his student advisor, Warren Otto, in the Military Support Office (MSO) in Extended Education at the U of M called him with just the right course option and encouragement to go for it.

In October 2018, Hayes, 84, graduated with his BA.

“A lot of the credit goes to your military office,” says the retired Calgary resident. “Achieving the degree provided me a positive sense of accomplishment.”

Hayes started his university studies at the U of M after a retired colleague who was also studying here suggested it. Two of his sisters with advanced degrees also provided incentive for him to complete post-secondary studies. One is an MD, and the other holds a master’s degree in nursing. Although he received considerable skills and management training as a pilot and commanding officer in the military, Hayes had only completed Grade 10 at his New Brunswick school, leaving a year short of senior matriculation at that time.

“When I started at the U of M, it had been 60 years since receiving formal schooling. I found the studies initially intimidating but progressively interesting and challenging,” says Hayes, noting the U of M gave him 30 credit hours for his military experience, leading him to major in political science and minor in geography. “Math was the major challenge for me as I was so long away from it. Although mathematics was a constant throughout my career, it was not the academic variety.”

While Hayes was studying, his grandson, Taylor Evans, was also completing his BA with U of M. A Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) pilot, Evans was living in Quebec and Alberta during his studies, followed by an exchange tour of duty with the United States Navy (USN) in Virginia. Captain Taylor Evans is currently flying as a member of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

“I had the opportunity to take university training in the military but didn’t wish to interrupt my career,” says Hayes. In retirement, he had more time for his studies as severe osteoporosis kept him from previous active hobbies like fishing, hunting, and woodworking. “Education was a good alternative. It kept me busy.”

For any serving or retired military member interested in pursuing post-secondary studies, he highly recommends contacting the MSO to gain their excellent support and advice. Hayes states, “I have nothing but the highest praise for the Military Support Office. Furthermore, I would encourage anyone at any age to fulfill their dream.”

Recognized with Coin of Excellence
In July, Warren Otto, student advisor, MSO was awarded the Canadian Forces’ Military Police Security Service, Detachment Commander’s Coin of Excellence. Otto was recognized “for exceptional dedication and devotion to the U of M military community… taking the time to guide military members in pursuit of their post-secondary goals,” according to the award letter from Bryan Grass, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class at the Embassy of Canada to Thailand.

Grass says, “The work Warren and his team provides to the Canadian Armed Forces is nothing short of outstanding. They assist, guide and provide advice on university education vital for military career advancement and knowledge capabilities. I was honoured to have been the one to recognize Warren for his dedication and assistance to me and other military members, as in my case, I was in Bangkok, Thailand, and he often assisted me outside of work hours.”

The coin was introduced two years ago, and only 600 were minted. Other recipients include ambassadors, security personnel from Five Eyes Embassy Alliance, and members of the military, says Grass.

First in Canada
The University of Manitoba’s Military Support Office (MSO), located in Extended Education, was the first civilian post-secondary institution in Canada to recognize military service for academic credit. Started in 1974, MSO was the Canadian Forces University Program for over 30 years before it became MSO.

Today, over 20 post-secondary institutions in Canada provide credit for military service.

At U of M’s Military Support Office, Academic Advisor, Warren Otto, receives personnel records from Canadian military personnel who would like their trades, training, and more assessed. He will determine how much U of M credit they have earned, up to a maximum of 30 credit hours towards an undergraduate degree.

“In Canada, U of M is recognized as the place to go to find out what you are entitled to,” says the military enthusiast. “We’ve been doing it the longest. Most people come here to kick the tires and see what they are entitled to, how many credit hours they have earned, and what is required to fulfill degree requirements.”

Students all over the world
Over 1,000 students are working with the MSO at any given time, with about 300 students per term taking courses. Students are adults with busy lives, located across Canada, in the United States, and abroad in places including Mali, Brussels, and the Middle East. All of them take their U of M courses through distance education.

Over half of the students studying in the Bachelor of Arts (Integrated Studies) are members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Their BA degrees often focus on political sciences, history, geography, and criminology.

Students may be approaching their retirement from the military and wanting a degree to prepare them for their future civilian life and career. Others want a degree because they need it to move ahead in their military career or to become an officer.

Military Support Office

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