Furthering His Career: Eric Potvin

Eric Potvin has had a long, successful career in the military. To advance in a civilian career, however, he knew he needed to further his education. That’s when he discovered Excelsior College and earned a Bachelor of Science in National Security in 2018.

Potvin, originally from Middletown, Connecticut, entered the military after graduating high school. He started his military career as a signal support specialist with the Army but after five years without promotion, he decided to switch his focus to counterintelligence. During his time in counterintelligence, Potvin did six deployments, traveling to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and other countries. He was a platoon sergeant, first sergeant, and later became acting sergeant major for the 305th Military Intelligence Battalion out of Fort Huachuca, Arizona. “It was an interesting time when I had about 2,000 soldiers every day out there doing work that I was trying to look after,” he says of the responsibility.

Potvin retired from the military in 2017 after 20 years of service and decided to turn his attention to civilian careers. He realized he lacked some of education required for many jobs, however. “Even though I had all that experience, I didn’t have the education to go along with it. I had an associate degree, but I didn’t have my bachelor’s, so a lot of the positions I was looking at when I retired, they didn’t really want me,” Potvin explains. He decided he needed to return to school.

Choosing a Bachelor in National Security at Excelsior College

“I looked at a few online degrees plans, and I found that most people directed me back to Excelsior,” Potvin says, adding that Excelsior’s national security program particularly spoke to him. After speaking with academic advisors, he discovered he only needed 17 credits to finish his degree. He had previously completed an associate degree in Intelligence Operations with Cochise College in Sierra Vista, AZ in 2011.

Those credits, along with some from Central Texas College, Austin Peay State University, CLEP/DSST testing, City Colleges of Chicago, and military services credits, were all accepted by Excelsior. “But just having 17 credits left was amazing, so I was able to knock it [his degree] out in just four or five semesters of the 8-week classes,” he says, adding that he wished he had thought about going back to school sooner. Potvin was able to use his GI Bill® benefits to pay for Excelsior, too. “I wound up with the degree paid for, and I wound up with a little extra spending money…so it was nice to have all that plus books paid for,” he says.

Excelsior’s online learning environment turned out to be beneficial to Potvin, who enjoyed how the course structure gave him the ability to develop and follow his own schedule. “It was nice that I didn’t have to bind myself down in a traditional format; I was able to work on [coursework] while I was still working and while I was still doing my day job,” he says. He notes it was also helpful to know deadlines for projects and assignments in advance [from the syllabi] so he could plan ahead.

Potvin currently works in Afghanistan as an intelligence advisor for Raytheon, a U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation. He says it is a rewarding career and it wouldn’t have been possible without pursuing his degree with Excelsior. Potvin says, “I attribute my ability to receive this position as a direct result of completing my B.S.”

Potvin says there are many things that could come up in his life—he is currently in the MBA program at the University of Arizona—and just having a bachelor’s degree has opened lots of doors. He hopes his degree will propel him into management positions. “I have the degree, I have the professional experiences that I hope someone will look at and say this is the right person for this next career advancement,” says Potvin. “And that’s what my real focus is now.”

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at benefits.va.gov/gibill/.