Meet Michael Walker ’16
By Suzanne Lazar, ’16; student, SUNY Empire State College School for Graduate Studies; editor, The Student Connection
January 5, 2017
Michael Walker ’16 graduated SUNY Empire State College with a Bachelor’s degree in Community and Human Services and a concentration in Health Care Management. Walker is currently a Medical Operator in the U.S Army and owns his own construction company (with a construction management certification from Pace University), Walker PMC, LLC. Walker has been in the army since 2002 and first received his Associate’s degree at Central Texas College while actively serving in the Army, some of that in Afghanistan.
While serving in Afghanistan, Walker was one of many others that were observed and followed by Harry Sanna, a cross-media journalist and international reporter. Walker will appear in the documentary. Trauma directed by Sanna, which depicts what Iraqi War veterans face while in the line of duty, and how they manage the stress in their life when they return from serving our country.
Walker’s path to completing his degree at SUNY Empire State has lead him down a very interesting path full of many different interests.
I had a chance to talk to Walker about being a student and completing his degree at SUNY Empire State College, and the different paths and interests he experienced while on his journey. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. I noticed a gap in time between completing your Associate’s degree and starting a Bachelor’s degree. What were you doing before starting a degree at Empire State College?
A. I did almost all of the Associate’s degree online while on deployment in Iraq. I have been on active military duty since May 2002 to present. The gap was a transition to becoming a flight medic and doing two rapid turn-around tours to Afghanistan, which kept me very busy. To be honest, I simply did not have the time.
Q. When you were ready to begin undergraduate studies for a Bachelor’s degree, what made you choose SUNY Empire State College? Did you take classes online, in person, or a mix of both?
A. SUNY Empire State College has a satellite office in Fort Drum, NY, which was convenient for me. I was able to customize my degree and I did self-paced courses, on-line and in class. The variety of study modes was very helpful in my decision. Choosing SUNY Empire State College made more sense, compared to other educational institutions.
Q. What made you decide on a concentration in Health Care Management?
A. I thought about transitioning into a medical management position because I always wanted to help people. In my first enlistment, I was a military policeman, then a medic. In my second enlistment, I became a flight medic. Healthcare Management made sense with my work experience and my rank being in management of personnel, systems and facilities.
Q. How did being in the United States Army help you in terms of your undergraduate studies and construction management? How did it translate into your professional and personal life?
A. The Army is about the management of personnel and resources to accomplish a mission. A great deal of the protocols or processes that are used in civilian life were either created for, or tested in the military. Continued studies are also a methodology of the military – whether learning something new in a structured learning environment, or on the job.
Q. Have you always wanted to own your own business?
A. I did like the idea of working for myself as it leaves no room for blame. If I succeed or if I fail it is because of me or my decisions.
Q. Any plans for a graduation degree?
A. I would like to pursue an MBA with a specialization of project management.
Q. Can you talk more about the documentary Trauma? How did you get involved?
A. In 2011 Harry Sanna, the director of Trauma, intended to nest himself with my medivac unit for a few days to observe the line of duty, and ended up staying about 6 weeks. When the reporter saw what we go through, what we do, what we see and how we try to put all else behind, he saw a greater story.
After the six weeks he spent observing us, he went home and took a break from what he saw and experienced. Sanna had been disconnected from the army experience for six months but still felt an impact from the few weeks he was there. He wondered, if that was the effect on him, what kind of impact must the people that do this all the time go through. It was then, that the idea of the documentary Trauma was born. For the next five or so years, Sanna recorded our lives after Afghanistan for his documentary.
Q. What do you do in your free time?
A. What's that? I’m kidding; if I am not taking a course, doing some form of schooling or actually working (still in the Army) and working on setting up the company for my actual transition date - then I am spending time with my wife and daughter. If the weather ever cooperates I will also get out and play some golf with my dad who is living in Lafayette, south of Syracuse, NY.
Walker’s journey while in the Army and as a student has given him a great feeling of accomplishment. The program he enrolled in at Empire State College helped him gain a better understanding of management from different perspectives and combined with what he learned in the Army, the success of his career in the Army and owning his own business are now much more attainable.
Get a look into the compelling documentary at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/956531418/trauma-0.
The full version has not yet been released.