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Balancing College and Active Duty

By Lauren Landry
April 4, 2018

Ryan Daley kept his sights set on the future. Despite moving seven times in six years, all while trying to balance his responsibilities as a cryptologic linguist, squad leader, and non-commissioned officer for the U.S. Army, Daley was determined to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“I knew I was sacrificing small, leisurely things for something bigger: my future,” Daley says. “A lot of people prefer to wait and be told what to do; others are born leaders. I adopted that latter personality early, and I was awarded for it.”

Daley graduated in 2017 from Northeastern with his Bachelor of Science in Political Science, and is now pursuing his master’s degree in global politics at the London School of Economics. Had you asked him 10 years earlier if this is where he thought he’d be, he might have seemed uncertain.

“When my friends were graduating college, I was just joining the Army,” Daley says. “You lose a lot of years while you’re in the military.”

(Ryan Daley shares more of his Northeastern experience.) 

The military offered a program, however, that helped Daley pay for schooling while he was still on active duty, enabling him to complete language studies at both the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center. Through those experiences, he earned transfer credits he could apply toward his Northeastern education.

Daley started taking courses online, using whatever downtime he had to study. When his active duty ended, Daley moved to Boston to finish his degree at Northeastern’s flagship campus.

“I was nervous I’d be the old person in class,” Daley says, “but I was very encouraged by how diverse Northeastern is. It truly is a global university in a way that I wasn’t expecting.”

The lessons Daley was learning in class he started to apply at internships in Massachusetts Senator Karen Spilka’s office and at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Daley describes the experience as “meta,” explaining how one night he’d be reading something for class, and the next day he’d be putting it into practice at the State House.

“It was easy to be interested in the course materials, because it wasn’t theoretical anymore,” Daley says. “It was very literal to me.”

Despite juggling a full course load and internships, Daley managed to maintain a near-perfect 3.95 GPA, earning a Dean’s “Break Through” Scholarship for his achievements. Leading up to graduation, the Office of Alumni Relations named Daley a recipient of the 2017 Compass Award, which recognizes exemplary seniors who have demonstrated a dedication to leadership, volunteerism, and academic integrity.

“Everyone wants to be a leader in Boston, and Northeastern is a school that incubates that culture,” Daley says. “Between the advisors and the professors, Northeastern basically helped me every step of the way.”

After Daley finishes his master’s degree, his goal is to earn a doctorate and pursue a career in politics. Yet despite where he ends up, there’s one lesson from Northeastern he’ll always carry: To never stop learning.

“There’s always more to know,” Daley says. “You’re never worse off learning something.”

About Lauren Landry
Lauren Landry is the former associate director of content marketing for Northeastern University.