Kristifier Paxton started college immediately after high school, but the pressures of juggling full-time work and school were too great. “I was literally working 60 or more hours a week, and it was extremely difficult to manage my class schedule around my job, which was what was paying for school,” says Kristifier, a native of Ozark, Arkansas. He enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2005, and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he left the Army in 2010, he was eager to finish what he’d started.
From CAD to GIS
As someone who has always enjoyed drawing and maps, Kristifier got an associate degree in computer-aided drafting and design at the University of Arkansas, Fort Smith. Thereafter, he landed a job as a civil draftsman at an engineering and land surveying firm in Van Buren, but decided to continue his education in hopes of eventually expanding into GIS.
“I was definitely looking for a military friendly school,” says Kristifier, who took advantage of his GI Bill education benefit. With his job, a young family and no four-year colleges with GIS programs within a 75-mile radius of his home, an online program was also important. “I knew a bricks-and-mortar school wouldn’t fit my schedule and my life. I was really impressed with American Sentinel’s GIS bachelor’s program. I found it to be comparable to some of the top programs in the United States.”
Education—A Family Endeavor
Juggling work and family isn’t Kristifier’s only challenge. His wife is also in school, pursuing a master’s in information technology management at Webster University. Their schedule is hectic, with both doing homework from the moment their toddler goes to bed until they turn in themselves. “Time management is challenging,” Kristifier admits. “But attending online universities makes it possible. We try to view this as a time when we’re working to better our lives. One day, we’ll have our diplomas hanging over our desks and our daughter won’t even remember all the hours we spent studying.”
Though an online format has made college doable for Kristifier, it hasn’t made it easy. “It isn’t a breeze by any means,” he says. “I continue to be challenged and meet interesting people working in the field worldwide. My professors are excellent and so knowledgeable.”
Onward and Upward
With drive and dedication as well as unwavering support from his wife and his student success advisor, Kristifier has been able to make it through—and he even landed a new job as a CADD technician for another land surveying and engineering firm just a few months after completing his B.S. Geographic Information Systems in September 2012.
Kristifier has decided he won’t stop there—he was one of the first students to be accepted into American Sentinel’s new Master of Geospatial Information Systems. “The bachelor’s was a great GIS introduction, but the master’s program has been even more exciting, rewarding and challenging,” he says. He’ll complete the Geospatial Information Systems graduate certificate in 2013—comprised of the master’s program’s first five courses—and plans to finish the Master of GIS in 2014.
“GIS is a growing field and I know that the higher degree I have, the more employable I’ll be,” Kristifier says, adding that he hopes to gain supervisory GIS experience after he finishes his master’s program. One day, he would love to teach at a college. “I love learning, and I’m excited that these degrees will put me at the top of my field.”