Even with the strains of the commencement march still playing in the background, one of Western Michigan University‛s newest doctoral degree recipients Sam Striker was already thinking about his next deployment to Afghanistan.
Striker, who was awarded a doctoral degree in educational leadership in December 2011, had already had one deployment to Iraq and two deployments to Afghanistan and returned for a third time to Afghanistan in early 2012.
Striker is a social scientist in intelligence field operations. He is attached to various U.S. and NATO combat forces, and his work is about the subtle ways the military can become an enabling force rather than an occupying force.
“We‛re not fighting armies in uniform,” he says. “To be effective, the military has to understand the population on a socio-demographic level.
“My role is to get into villages, talk to people and find out what the needs and wants of the village are—things like farming equipment, water resources, safety and security. During the process, I sometimes also uncover actionable security issues. I bring the level of in-depth analysis I learned at WMU to everything I do here.”
He learned those skills at WMU while earning a master‛s degree in educational leadership and completing his doctoral research. The latter was something of a logistical feat, as Striker completed his doctoral studies both at home in the United States and online, often while deployed. The course work was completed earlier while the Grand Rapids, Mich., native lived and worked as an educator in his home state.
With 12 years of teaching experience, Striker expects to return to the classroom someday. But he wants to continue his connection to the military so he can help bring a favorable end to the war in Afghanistan and enable the military, populace and other entities understand the nature of terrorism.
“I‛d like to teach military science students to prepare future officers to be able to take advantage of enablers like me who can bring in information from the field that can make them more effective, lead to a decrease in casualties and help them create an infrastructure that will lead to success.”