MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --
A 20-year enlisted Airman was honored, March 10, 2023, during a ceremony recognizing her illustrious academic accomplishment, rarely achieved by enlisted servicemembers.
Senior Master Sgt. Anique S. McElveen received her doctoral hood for the first time in front of her family, friends and colleagues at the Enlisted Heritage Research Institute on Gunter Annex, Ala.
Airmen with doctoral degrees make up just .007 percent of the Air Force enlisted population. In a service with 260,000 enlisted, there has never been a period where even 100 held doctorates. Most years it is in the single digits, according to Community College of the Air Force records.
“Education was not a big thing for me when I joined in May 2003, but the Air Force wanted us to get a CCAF degree, so that was the first degree I received,” McElveen said. “After that, I started on my bachelor’s degree because of the ‘whole Airman concept.’ Seeing how easy it was to get my bachelor’s, I decided to go on and get my master’s.”
McElveen, a Sumter, South Carolina native, received her Doctor of Educational Leadership, pre-K-12 concentration, from Trident University International. Her master’s degree is in leadership and her bachelor’s degree is in early childhood education.
As the superintendent for the College of Academic Management at the CCAF, she manages the 28 members who update and validate credits for the 69 CCAF degree programs.
During the “hooding” ceremony, guests with doctoral degrees and wearing academic regalia marched in a processional through the Enlisted Heritage Hall.
Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Lackey, command chief for the Barnes Center for Enlisted Education and a Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership, spoke during the event and praised McElveen for reaching her terminal degree while still ensuring college-level education pathways exist for others.
“You’re blazing a trail so others can follow,” Lackey said. “And it is fitting that we should celebrate your incredible accomplishment during Women’s History Month.”
McElveen enlisted in the Air Force as a personnelist but retrained to education and training in 2010. She also did a stint as an enlisted aide but returned to education and training. She has been stationed at eight different bases.
She decided to go for her doctoral degree while in Germany. As with all her degrees, her husband was right beside her. They did advanced degrees together so they could help motivate each other, McElveen stated. Her husband, Chris, also has a doctoral degree.
“At first I was scared because who has six years.” she said. “Then I realized that it didn’t take that long, and I could get it in three years. I said, ‘why not, let’s try it’.”
Military tuition assistance paid for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but McElveen paid for the doctoral degree. She did not use any of her GI bill and says it’s just waiting for her three kids to use it.
She plans to stay in the military for now, but said she always has her education to fall back on when she gets out.
“I would like to work in the education field in the future, because working with kids and giving back is my passion,” McElveen said.
Her advice to others looking to pursue an advanced degree: “Life happens, don’t’ get discouraged,” she said. “If it’s something you’re passionate about, you will make time and make sure it happens.”