As he crossed the stage inside the University of North Texas Coliseum Friday morning, shook President Neal Smatresk’s hand, and moved his tassel to the other side of his cap, Jonathan Igou accomplished a goal that’s at least ten years in the making.
"If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I thought I was going to be a graduate with a bachelor’s degree, I would have told you probably not,” said Igou.
That’s because back then he was focused on a different goal: being the fourth generation of his family to serve their country.
Igou joined the U.S. Air Force after high school and served in Afghanistan working logistics in the combat zone.
"Convoy operations over in the desert,” he said. "A little dangerous, a little stressful, but made the best out of it."
He did until an injury during his service forced him into early, disability retirement.
Igou did earn college credit during his service and, when he came home, started pursuing some community college classes, but then life happened; in a good way. Johnathan met his wife who he’d marry and father a son and daughter with.
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His new responsibilities, along with discovering many four-year universities couldn’t transfer all of his credits, made finishing that degree seem further away than ever. His wife encouraged him to press on though.
So while finishing classes at Tarrant County College his advisor pointed him to a program offered at the University of North Texas called the Bachelor’s of Applied Arts and Sciences degree.
The degree is offered at several four year universities, but UNT Assistant Director of Student Services Trey Anderson said it’s not one enough people in Johnathan’s position ever learn about.
“It’s not one they advertise on the billboards,” said Anderson. "It's the program you find out about at your transfer orientation when someone won't take half of your stuff or the other universities you've talked to say 'we can't work with that.'"
This program, instead, goes out of the way to work with what veterans and non-traditional students bring in.
Anderson’s team takes the credits the students already have and find ways to apply them into UNT’s program, and then they help the students, who often have families and busy lives, find ways to complete their studies on the time table that works for them.
“The record is six years,” said Anderson.
In Igou’s case though it only took about a year and a half of work on the Denton campus before his studies in the logistics field were complete, and on Friday the 31-year-old graduated with the class of 2016; the first in his family to pull it off.
"It's been a long journey, but it's good,” said Igou holding his young son and daughter.
The fourth generation veteran, proud husband, and dad can finally call himself a grad.