Joint Base Lewis-McChord to celebrate 160 Brandman graduates

June 03, 2021

The following content first appeared on the news page while UMass Global operated under its former name of Brandman University.

Brandman University graduates from the Fort Lewis and McChord Field campuses who are members of the classes of 2020 and 2021 are invited to participate in a Friday, June 4 ceremony honoring degree and certificate candidates from base-affiliated colleges and universities. This will be the first occasion since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when Brandman graduates will be able to celebrate the completion of their studies during an in-person gathering.

The ceremony will be hosted and coordinated by JBLM leadership. Brandman faculty and staff are excited for the Fort Lewis and McChord Field graduates who will be able to celebrate on the base before beginning the next chapter of their lives.

“Commencement ceremonies always inspire optimism,” Brandman Chancellor Gary Brahm said. “When graduates’ names are called, we look forward to how their newly-gained knowledge will help them climb to higher levels of personal and professional accomplishment. Now, as universities across the country resume in-person commencements and more and more people get vaccinated, we can reconnect in more personal ways and build healthier communities together.”

Brandman’s 2021 graduating class includes Air Force Staff Sgt. Samantha Reel, a McChord Field campus student who received the university’s Military Academic Achievement Award for Air Force students in 2020. Reel enrolled with Brandman in the summer of 2019 and will be receiving a Master of Science in Human Resources.

“My education experience with Brandman University and their incredible team empowered me to strive, achieve, and believe that I could accomplish my dream, to receive a masters in human resources,” Reel said. “They guided and tailored my academic experience to allow me to balance my commitment to the Air Force, my family and my passion for growth.”

Reel spent her childhood on a Christmas tree farm in La Center, a small town near the Columbia River. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Washington State University Vancouver in 2017, months before joining the Air Force. While stationed at JBLM, Reel was assigned to the same building where Brandman and other universities provide classroom space for military students. She presently serves as a Knowledge Manager for the 627th Communications Squadron.

She decided to enroll in graduate school while serving at JBLM and selected Brandman after meeting with McChord Field campus director Lorine Hill and her team. Reel recalled that Hill’s “willingness, energy and passion for higher education was so apparent” during that encounter.

Reel expressed gratitude to her instructors for helping her feel connected to Brandman, and engaged with her coursework, while the pandemic made it necessary for studies and interactions to take place virtually. She singled out part-time faculty member Gerard Buan for praise, crediting his mentorship with helping her to focus her aspirations on a career in human resources.

Reel received Air Force Tuition Assistance and Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits while attending Brandman. She plans to enter civilian life later this fall, taking with her the values she internalized over the course of her Air Force career along with the knowledge she acquired from her Brandman studies.

“Brandman is absolutely a military friendly university, and that was another huge reason that I was drawn to it,” she said. “There was a certain level of camaraderie that I felt during each class because my instructors absolutely understood my commitment to the Air Force and a lot of my classmates were either active duty or prior service.”

Joint Base Lewis-McChord has announced a June 4 Commencement ceremony for graduates of Brandman and other base-affiliated colleges and universities. Attendance will be restricted to graduates who have permission to access base grounds.

Brandman hosted virtual ceremonies in June 2020 at a time when the pandemic precluded public gatherings. The university is evaluating opportunities for in-person ceremonies that may take place later this year to recognize Class of 2021 graduates, as well as Class of 2020.

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