We recently caught up with Paul Wilson, a graduate of AIU Online’s Bachelor of Business Administration program, to congratulate him on his appointment as Chief Recruiting Officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. At just 33 years old, he is the youngest Chief of Recruitment among the seven in his agency.
Surprisingly, Paul found his niche in the human resources industry after receiving the disappointing news that he did not pass the Air Force vision test for pilots. “A childhood dream for me was to become a pilot,” he explained. “When it came down that I couldn’t place because of my vision, if I hadn’t had that degree…I probably would have felt powerless. But because I had a degree, I felt that there were so many other avenues that I could take. I felt like anything was possible.
Earning a business degree wasn’t always top of mind for Paul. Instead of going to college after high school, he decided to get a full-time job and join the United States Air Force Reserves. “AIU was the tipping point toward success in my life,” he says. “I didn’t really apply myself in high school. My senior year I got senioritis, dropped out and got my GED.” But the path that led to wasn’t working for him. “I was working at a retail store and in the Reserves, and I’m like, ‘I don’t want this to be the rest of my life.’”
The following year, Paul decided to enroll at AIU to pursue his Bachelor of Business Administration with a specialization in management, but he was no longer working retail jobs; he was on active duty in the Air Force. Toward the end of his degree, Paul was deployed overseas to Iraq, working 14-hour days heading up an air base security detail. “It was six months straight with no days off. Just work and school, but I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel at that point,” he says. “Every day there was this threat. We were getting rockets and mortars lobbed at us all day long, and we were working out on a runway with no bunkers nearby.”
How did he manage to fit in the computer time he needed to finish his degree in that high-pressure scenario? “I had to go to another part of the base where our command staff worked—four computers for 250 people. I owed some favors to get my computer time. That’s where I learned that networking is key.”
Paul graduated with his business degree in August 2004. Today, Paul manages a team of civilian human resources specialists - a team that he used to work on - for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. And even nine years later, Paul still draws on his undergrad experience at AIU. “I would have to say the distance learning experience helped me the most. It helped me to sharpen my discipline and time management skills. I work in an environment that is now going to a virtual. AIU’s virtual environment gave me that experience almost a decade ago. AIU has been ahead of the game on this trend.”