Xander Gamble's work space is an old Soviet-era building with exposed wiring, a very slow Internet connection, tiny AC units and a hodge-podge of wood and metal desks - all of which is covered in a stubborn layer of thick dust. From this modest office, Gamble creates sophisticated communication pieces for military members. He's also a part-time graduate student in Quinnipiac's master of science in interactive media program.
As the news director for the American Forces Network (AFN), Afghanistan's Bagram media station, Navy Petty Officer Gamble needed a program that was flexible as well as offered the latest in cutting-edge information, research and industry best practices to advance his career, which led him to Quinnipiac University Online. Shortly after beginning the program, Gamble was promoted to Mass Communication Specialist First Class Petty Officer.
"I feel that the Quinnipiac staff and faculty are some of the best that I have worked with," said Gamble. "The professors have been understanding [during my deployment] without degrading the integrity of the program."
Gamble has found that because the format of online programs is so flexible, he is able to creatively fit in his work in his own way, despite the slow Internet connection on the base. He pre-downloads the videos and articles he needs, and then works whenever he has a free moment. "I will bounce between being a leader and being a student probably a half-dozen times a day, so that I can fit it all in," said Gamble.
In Afghanistan, Gamble shoots and edits informational television spots and news stories seven days per week. He also maintains social media for a newly formed group of volunteers on the base, the First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA), and the Cat in the Hat Learning Arts Center on base, where local Afghan children come to learn English. In addition, he keeps a personal blog about his experience on the Bagram Air Field.
The practicality of the material and class projects means that Gamble can often implement things he learns in the interactive media program directly into his professional life. "The fact that I am learning about all parts of interactive media, from web design, to layout, to animation, to thinking about the user, has been an amazing way to understand the cogs of interactive media," said Gamble. He uses these skills as he supervises other servicemembers, organizing and planning the stories they will cover and guiding their projects to ensure quality pieces.
Gamble is aiming to complete his degree by May 2014. "With my degree, I am hoping to help keep the Navy at the front-end of communication and media in terms of getting the information out there. I want to be a part of keeping the Navy relevant, and the best way to do so is to study and learn what is going on, what is new, how people are communicating, and then acting on that."
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