The Couple that Goes to School Together Stays Together

The Couple that Goes to School Together Stays Together

Nancy Rathgeber describes her husband, David, as “an education junkie.” So when he told her he was interested in pursuing yet another degree—this time in computer science—she wasn’t the least bit surprised. And in fact, she decided maybe she would join him.

Without a doubt, the Rathgebers hold their own in the education department—with nine degrees between them. David has a Doctor of Business Administration from Argosy University, an MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology, a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the School of Advanced Military Studies, a Bachelor of Science in technical careers from Southern Illinois University, a Bachelor of Music Education from Florida State University (and a certificate in systems engineering from the University of California at San Diego). Nancy holds bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and French from the University of California at Irvine and has a certificate in systems engineering from the University of California at San Diego.

Seeking an Applicable Education

“I work as a computer scientist, but I didn’t have the degree in it, and I felt that was important to give me credibility,” says David, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps who has worked at the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (MCTSSA) since 2001.

For Nancy—a colonel in the Marine Corps who works as a project team lead supporting the development of computer-based command and control systems for the Marines, also at MCTSSA—further education would allow her to gain the technical skills she needs in her job. “I needed the technical education,” Nancy admits. “So when David started looking, we decided to pursue the same program.”

A School to Fit Their Lives

The couple approached their Workforce and Training Development Office for help finding an online, accredited school, and got to know American Sentinel University, which impressed them for several important reasons. “The military-friendly factor and the accreditation were pluses,” says David. “That accreditation was especially important for the work we do. Having that, along with the flexibility of eight-week online courses was perfect.”

With full-time jobs and active schedules, David and Nancy admit that being in school together—and in the same B.S. Computer Science program—was helpful for many reasons. “We were committed to the same thing,” says Nancy. “We took probably 90 percent of our courses at the same time, so we could encourage one another.” Outside their careers, Nancy is a respected breeder of Samoyed dogs, which she also shows competitively. David is very involved in the Masonic Lodge.

Onward with Degrees in Hand

Completing their degrees took four years, taking one course at a time. The Rathgebers graduated in September 2012 and say the accomplishment feels good. The knowledge gained, Nancy says, is even more valuable than she anticipated. “The computer science skills I use regularly,” she says. “The degree definitely helps me in the technical aspects of my job and in managing technical people on my team.”

David says that although he is a lifelong, avid learner, his American Sentinel degree will be his last. “I’m done with formal degrees, but I will always do things for my own interest,” he says, referring to a vintner certification at his local community college that he has his eye on. “American Sentinel was a great experience. It was definitely worthwhile and I’m happy to be done.”