Sailor Balances Service and Family to Earn Three Degrees

As every sailor knows, staying on an even keel is important for stability. And Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dorothy Jimenez discovered firsthand that this state of balance applied to her personal life, too. Now a three-time Excelsior grad, Jimenez cites a drive to keep pushing forward in life and school with helping her succeed. She credits not only her family with bringing balance to her life, but learning as well. “Seeking to learn kept me thinking outside the box. I always thought this [earning a degree] is bigger than me, so it kept me focused; it helped me stay balanced,” she said.

But Jimenez’s life hasn’t been without its ups and downs. Although enrolled in a local university following high school, she was not progressing as she had hoped. A single mom, she was looking for stability for both herself and her son and an opportunity to continue her education. A meeting with a Navy recruiter on campus launched her 20 plus year military career.

Once enlisted, a visit to the Navy college office started her on a path to her first degree, an Associate in Applied Science (Technology) in 2007. She recalled, “I was so excited with Excelsior, because they pretty much took all college credit for my military experience. And they helped me with a plan.” Marriage to an active duty spouse Daniel and having another child were other milestones in Jimenez’s life, but she also wanted to continue with her educational goals. “I stayed focused, going after my dreams, and kept moving toward my goals.” And graduate again she did, in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies.

When both husband and wife are enlisted, family life and educational pursuits can be challenging, especially when responsibilities take the two in different directions. Once Dorothy had to attend six months of training when Daniel was called to a surge deployment. On another occasion, Dorothy was deployed and her husband was recruiting.  Both times, their respective parents stepped up to the plate to help care for the growing family of four children, ages 7-23.

When Daniel deploys, Dorothy notes that she is basically a single mom again. “That is challenging because serving my country is a priority balanced with the priority of raising our children alone. It is tough, I have to make sure that our children are supported in every way possible. I had to make time to study, self-care, and commit to fitness goals. Some goals were easy and some I struggle with, but learned life lessons and experienced spiritual growth. Purposely, resilient in action, but there were many scrapes and sacrifices!”

Despite these challenges, Jimenez continued to press forward with her studies. She tips her hat to the help from Excelsior’s advisors and faculty. Admitting to missing some deadlines and repeating a course or two, Jimenez credits her advisor with vital coaching advice, offering her skills that she still uses to this day. She stayed in touch with her professors and found that “they understood that I was active duty military, I was a mom, and that I was trying to accomplish something.” She also credits her current chain of command for their continued support for education. One of her current Navy commands visions is “Success achieved through synchronized operations, empowered by calculated risk and continuous learning.” When she saw the light at the end of the tunnel with her bachelor’s degree classes, she was determined to continue and enroll in a master’s degree. But it wasn’t as easy as simply signing up for the program; she needed to prove to the dean that she had the right stuff. Her success in an initial class was all that was needed to start her on completing her dream of a graduate degree.

While Jimenez appreciates her undergraduate Excelsior degrees, she feels her Master of Public Administration earned in 2018 is the foundation on which to build on her life’s ultimate ambition: helping others. She hopes to draw on her favorite MPA courses, mediation and arbitration, to make a difference, perhaps as a public servant in the cyber community.

Now at a crossroads in her life, Jimenez is eligible to transition. And, of course, there is her continued need for growth and to press forward with her education. Seriously considering pursuing cybersecurity law as her next step, she plans to take the LSAT this year. “Serving others is my passion. I hope that all I learned in the Navy is combined into something excellent and great to serve others. If it does not help anyone, I don’t think it’s worth doing.”

Jimenez said that she is humbled by all of her accomplishments. Growing up in a small town in Georgia with nine siblings, she noted that she did not have a lot of stability in her life. She credits first her faith, amazing husband and kids, hometown family, and mentors with encouraging her to set her mind on achieving her goals, telling her, “No matter what you’ve gone through in your life, you can always shoot for the stars and to be whoever you want to be.”

Reflecting on her three degrees, Jimenez said, “Excelsior is a college that will work with you, that will support you no matter what you’ve been through in your life. When you take that first step, Excelsior will take the other steps with you. They were with me every step of the way with my degrees and I am forever grateful.”