Officer and a Gentleman:
Fulfilling His Parents’ Promise

Written by Vera Springett

“I didn’t think I was college material,” says Javier Medina (Ph.D., Business Administration – Applied Computer Science, candidate).

In fact, when he was touring colleges during high school, Medina was under the misconception that his 3.19 GPA wasn’t good enough for admission into any college.

Javier Medina (Ph.D., Business Administration – Applied Computer Science, candidate)

“I resented my high school guidance counselor for not helping me properly,” he says, thinking his life may have taken a very different path had he gone to college right after high school, as he had hoped.

Growing up in the small town of Guayanilla on the southern coast of Puerto Rico, Medina remembers his father sharing letters from his half-brother who was in the U.S. Navy then.

“That made me very excited about the Navy when I was a kid,” he says. So when Medina graduated high school he explored what he thought was his only other option at the time: a military career.

But at 17 years old, the Navy required parental consent for Medina to enlist. In the meantime his cultural upbringing was pushing him to achieve a higher education and independence so he could someday become a professional in the career of his choice.

“Prior to joining the Navy, my parents had me promise that I would go to college in exchange for their signature approval in my military contract since I was a minor,” he says. So, Medina agreed to his parents’ conditions, obtained their signatures and took the enrollment test. Despite his poor English language skills at the time, his scores qualified him for entry.

“Earning a degree allowed me to become a commissioned officer and fulfill the promise I made to my parents.”

“I started as an enlisted man in the Navy with the goal to obtain a commission,” says Medina. “Earning a degree allowed me to become a commissioned officer and fulfill the promise I made to my parents.”

Military life proved harder for Medina than he thought it would, both in terms of English language and military culture.

“Going from a Caribbean island to [the] mainland, language was a barrier,” he says. Add to that a steep learning curve and homesickness. “I did really well, but it was tough.”

Today Medina has proudly served the Navy for 26 years—and is looking forward to 14 more as he plans to retire in 2028.

“I enjoy being in the military,” he says. “So long as I have my parents’ support, I will be here.”

But what Medina enjoys most about the Navy is the ability to hold different positions, live around the world and gain a diverse range of experiences.

“I’ve done a variety of different things, at different scales,” he says reflecting on how his job will switch drastically next year from what he’s doing now. “In fact, we’re moving to Japan next year.”

“It is imperative to pursue a higher education in this very competitive world.”

Medina’s passion lies in the field of computer science. While he could have picked a less demanding field, he did so because it was a booming industry with employment opportunities for life after the military.

“It is imperative to pursue a higher degree education in this very competitive world,” he says. “Without a good educational foundation one is limited to the limited pool of careers or levels within an organization.”

Medina completed his undergraduate degree in computer science and intends on pursuing this career further once he retires from the Navy. That’s why he’s working on his doctoral degree at NCU.

While his degrees in computer science may not help Medina directly in any of his current jobs with the Navy, they definitely give him the edge he needs to get promoted within the ranks.

“I’m currently in transition to start the prospective Executive Officer training at the Surface Warfare Officer School Command in Newport, RI,” he says. But Medina is more interested in how his doctoral degree will help him transition into his post-military career.

“I would like to teach at a local community college when I leave the military,” he says. “I want to teach computer science in leadership teaching. I have a lot of experience when it comes to that. That’s what I’m passionate about.”

Medina’s military training has prepared him well for the rigors of earning a doctoral degree at NCU. Per the requirements of the program, he knows what it takes to work independently and always complete the task at hand.

“With minimum guidance you have to be creative and you have to deliver because people are relying on you.”

“With minimum guidance you have to be creative and you have to deliver because people are relying on you,” says Medina.

While the coursework at NCU may not be relevant to his current job as a Surface Warfare Officer, the academic rigor and writing has helped Medina advance his communication skills; so much so that his supervisor now counts on him to review all contracts, administrative messages and instructions generated within the department. For that, Medina thanks Dr. Kelly Grattan, an NCU instructor and mentor, who has gone above and beyond to encourage him to develop his academic writing.

“Her focus was not in providing a grade, but rather ensuring that I had received the feedback necessary to meet the course requirement, and to take that knowledge through my academic journey,” he says.

Medina feels he has gained much from being able to share his experiences both on and off the field, with other learners at NCU. He often counsels them on ways to tackle assignments and build upon each other’s experiences.

“I would advise anyone contemplating a higher degree to meditate much,” he recommends. “Commit to finish what you have started and it will no longer be a focus on you but what your accomplishments can do for others seeking a mentor or role model.”