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Veteran Darren Scruggs Came to Seton Hill for a Certificate; He’s Leaving with 2 Degrees and a New Job

Military Friendly SchoolNavy veteran Darren Scruggs took 28 years to earn a bachelor’s degree. Now he’s working on his master’s. Recently, he agreed to answer some questions about his academic journey, in the hope that he can encourage others to complete their education.

What brought you to Seton Hill?

The journey that led me to Seton Hill University began while I was serving in the United States Navy back in 1992. I took my first college credit while on deployment and used videotapes from Coastline Community College in Chicago. IL.  After my honorable discharge in 1994, I took some classes at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Phoenix online for the next decade. I earned about 48 credits and had to put college on hold for a while. In the fall of 2017, I contacted the Diocese of Greensburg because I wanted to be a Deacon in the Catholic Church.  The first step was to enroll in the Pastoral Ministry Certificate Program that SHU had in partnership with the Diocese.  

How did you end up also earning a bachelor’s degree?

Since I was interested in finishing my degree, I inquired about the steps necessary to earn my [General Studies] bachelor’s degree in parallel with the Pastoral Ministry Certificate. I am so thankful that the journey started 28 years ago came to a successful completion at SHU in August of 2020. 

What was your undergraduate experience at Seton Hill like?

The wonderful staff, faculty and employees of SHU are the main reason I was successful. The overall experience from the initial advising session, to the first orientation through graduation preparation has been fantastic. The teachers are incredible, the students are enthusiastic and the people working in the book store are incredible. The cheerful demeanor displayed by all has made my experience both positive and memorable.  

Did furthering your education help you to achieve professional or personal goals? 

My entire undergraduate focus was finishing the 80 credits in less than two years so I would be in position to start the graduate program at Saint Vincent if I got selected as a Diaconate aspirant.  The Bishop of Greensburg and the Diaconate Selection Committee did not select me as an aspirant and I found out the same day that my degree was conferred.  Within two weeks of graduating, a position at the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in the Uniontown Area Conference opened up and I applied.  I got the Director of Operations position and my SHU education, including my Pastoral Ministry Certificate was one of the deciding factors for the board of directors to hire me.  Now, I know that my SHU education is going to play a huge role in my new career path as I leave the technical world and delve into social work and helping the local communities where I live. So, yes, furthering my education at SHU helped me achieve both a personal goal and a new professional goal previously undreamed of.

"The teachers are incredible, the students are enthusiastic and the people working in the book store are incredible. The cheerful demeanor displayed by all has made my experience both positive and memorable."  

What made you decide to enter Seton Hill’s master’s program in innovative instruction?

I became a shipboard instructor in the United States Navy in 1989 and I trained others how to do their jobs while serving in the Navy.  I used that training experience gained in the Navy and applied it to every position I had since leaving the Navy in every technical job I held.  In 2009, I became a National Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)-certified transmission system operator and within 6 months of being qualified, I got promoted to a technical trainer. I have trained operators to control the electric grid for the states of Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. As the Director of Operations for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society in Uniontown, a master’s degree in education in innovative instruction would help me in several ways. Part of my current role is to teach both employees and volunteers how to do their jobs, and to do them safely. Another way is that I want to become certified to teach others about the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and its history.  I have a combined 30 years of experience in training others, both informally and formally. And this graduate program will enhance me even further.  

Is there anything you’d like to tell adult students who are considering entering college for the first time (or coming back to finish a degree)?

Two things: early and 100%. I would tell anyone that will listen, complete your education early. While I understand that at times it is difficult to determine what to study and commit to something you may do for the rest of your life at an early age; pick something early and do it. Do not wait 10 years, or 20 or 30 like I did. Commit early, and it is all right to change your mind several times along the way. No education is wasted.  Even if you are 3 credits shy of a major and switch, nothing has been wasted.  Finish your education early.  If you commit, do so without reservation and with 100% of your effort. When studying, minimize distractions and give it 100%. When in class, minimize distractions and give it 100%. When blowing off steam, minimize school distractions and blow off steam 100% (but do so responsibly and legally). Get your head clear and commit to school the next day after blowing off steam, and renew your 100% commitment.  

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