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Chris Baylor: Focus on Purpose

ChrisBaylorWith a decade-long career in the United States Navy and another 10 years in information technology completed, Chris Baylor has now set his sights on accomplishing something even greater – focusing on his purpose.  Photography started out as an experience in high school and just an elective at Collin College, but eventually became a full time business that prompted a love for education.  As a father of three and husband, Chris Baylor’s focus on purpose is an example for future students that education can bring life back full circle.

Once Chris picked up the camera again after completing his successful military career, he knew he had to learn more about photography in order to relate to his clients and subjects more.  While at Collin College in Plano, Texas, Chris worked with the professors to learn of the history and psychology of photography.

“I had some great professors that took time outside of studio and class to give me the tools and resources to be successful,” Baylor said.  “They saw my potential and talent and are part of the people that continue to shape the person that I am still becoming.”

His professors at Collin College, many of whom were Texas A&M University-Commerce alumni, encouraged him to continue his study of photography.   After hearing great things about the university, Chris decided to work with the Veterans Affairs and Admissions department to transfer his core curriculum classes.

“My experience at Collin was well spent and hard earned,” Chris said.  “It prepared me for success at Texas A&M University-Commerce.”

His educational journey continues as he completes his Bachelor of Science degree in Photography.  While at TAMU-Commerce, Chris serves as the athletic photographer covering all sporting events for the university.  In addition, his photography has garnered acclaim.  Chris secured his first national magazine assignment with shooting the cover and editorial imagery set.  He also provided images for the Formula One World Championship Round 19 and the Inaugural United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.  Some of Baylor’s images were even selected by an international magazine.

As owner of Christopher Baylor Photography, his purpose is to focus on the uniqueness and beauty of the people, places, and things that he captures.  “I have found what I was meant to do and the fact that I will have a degree in the field that I have chosen to dedicate my heart and energy into is so undeniable,” Baylor said.

Reflecting back on his life, Chris realizes he had many career paths but the one that finally chose him was photography.  “Funny thing about choosing a career path is that sometimes you pick what you think you want to do and other times the right path is presented to you and you just have to follow it,” he said.

Is it not funny that education can bring life back full circle when students seek to focus on purpose?

Chris Gunn: Personal Journey, Academic Growth

A prestigious Army course in El Paso, Texas, put a soldier on the path to a master’s degree.ChrisGunnFull

Army Sgt. Maj. Chris Gunn, a sergeant major for the 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, put  academics on hold at Middle Georgia College when he joined the Army.

He left his home in Warner Robins, Ga., and joined the military. As he rose in rank and responsibility, he saw the world – and the benefits of an academic education.

Gunn took some online classes but his academic breakthrough was being selected in 2008 to attend the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. The nine-month program trains top non-commissioned officers in the U.S.military and foreign countries.

While at the academy, he met a representative from The University of Texas at El   guided him to earn a bachelor’s in multidisciplinary studies in spring 2009.  UTEP personnel encouraged him to register for the master’s in leadership studies hybrid program (half face-to-face, half online). He earned his hood in May 2010.

“The Army wants critical, creative thinkers. (Its leaders) want us to be able to perform outside our comfort zone,” he said.  “It’s amazing how school has opened my eyes and made me more analytical.”

He suggests transfer students keep their options open and keep their eyes on the broader horizon.

Gunn said his ability to tie his Army training and academic education has given him a broader perspective in numerous areas including business and culture that will make him a better military leader and a more marketable civilian.

Dawson Muñoz: Taking Every Opportunity

DawsonMunozfullWhile Dawson Muñoz was serving with the Texas National Guard in Iraq, he spent time talking about life with the troops’ interpreters.

“A lot of them wanted the American Dream,” he says. “But it was impossible for them. Yet here I am, able to take advantage of these things.”

So Dawson, who had been voted the student of the year by his peers at South Plains College, had a plan when he transferred to Texas State University upon his return from active duty.

“Dean’s list every semester,” says Dawson, who is the first member of his family to attend college. “Get involved as much as possible. Make the most of the college experience.”

From academics to involvement in Texas State’s mentoring program, Dawson indeed has made the most of his time at the university. He pledged a fraternity. He was part of the unique program that allows business students to manage a portion of the university’s endowment. He joined the University Ambassadors, an organization that promotes Texas State both on and off campus.

The finance major also found ways to make his experience richer off campus. He took part in the Texas State Study Abroad program, living with a family and studying business in Mexico, and he received a Fulbright grant to teach and do research in Spain.

“It’s turned out to be a dream come true,” he says of his time at Texas State. “I couldn’t have asked for more.”


Caroline Tapp – From Sailor to Texas Tech Red Raider

CarolineTappfullCaroline was raised in Richardson, TX and joined the US Navy ten months after graduating high school in 2001. After serving six honorable years of active duty and visiting multiple countries throughout the world, Caroline decided to leave the military to pursue a higher education. “I felt it was important to obtain my degree so that I would have the knowledge and tools to further my career path. Whether that path will lead me to continue Naval Service or attain a job in the civilian sector is currently unknown, but I do know that I’ll be proud to have accomplished this goal.”

She chose to use her Post 9/11 GI Bill at Collin County Community College in order to stay close to her family, whom she had missed while on active duty. Once Caroline graduated with an Associate of Science in General Studies in December 2010, she decided that in order to achieve her ultimate educational goal, it was necessary to continue on to complete a Bachelor Degree in Geophysics. Caroline wanted to find a university that would have both a good academic program and a military friendly atmosphere.

Caroline decided to attend Texas Tech University, not only based on their outstanding reputation in the Geosciences and Engineering departments, but also because Texas Tech is rated among the top schools in the nation for providing military veterans the best experience possible. “I was lucky enough to find a school where there is an entire office devoted to veterans. Not only do they help with the red tape that often occurs with the GI Bill, but they also are there to make sure I am succeeding academically as well.”

Caroline is currently completing her Junior year, and is planning on attending Graduate School in August 2013. She is also serving as the Secretary of the Texas Tech Veterans Association on campus, an organization that is very involved in the community to promote patriotism and the understanding of Lubbock Veterans. Caroline enjoys each day that she can use her knowledge, skills, and experience that she acquired while serving in the Navy, as well as those that she gains while at Texas Tech to guide her on the path to success.

William Dawson: A Life of Service

William Dawson earned his bachelor’s degree to fulfill a promise. Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, William and his sister were raised by a single Will Dawson - fullmom who sometimes worked three jobs to support them. After serving three years in the ROTC, joining the military after high school seemed a natural way to help the family. After serving 21 years in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps, William retiring as a Senior Warrant Officer and returned to Texas and enrolled at The University of Texas San Antonio.

“I promised my mother I would complete my degree,” he says. “It was the only way to convince her to sign me into the Army when I was 17.”

William received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and is currently perusing a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration. But, he admits, the path to success is not always easy. “I was way behind in math and science,” he says. “UTSA has exceedingly gifted and patient tutors that helped me make the transition academically.”

After seeing other ex-military transfer students struggle with everything from transition between military/civilian lives to GI Bill payment delays or credit acceptance issues, William offers this advice: “You need to have a plan of attack from day one,” he says. “Contact the Student Veterans Association on your campus and ask for a mentor or sponsor.”

But the most important thing he says is to relax, enjoy your studies and participate in campus activities, especially the ones involving public service.  “We veterans tend to be very good at public service,” he says. “It’s how we were raised.”