Serve and learn: VU helps Coast Guard members continue their education

Serve and learn: VU helps Coast Guard members continue their education

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July 09, 2020

July 9, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. – Vincennes University partners with the U.S. Coast Guard to bring college to active-duty service members wherever they are in the world. Even if that wherever is a Coast Guard cutter at sea.

The Vincennes University Coast Guard Afloat Education Program is designed to meet the needs of personnel onboard deployed Coast Guard vessels and at Coast Guard Stations ashore, in all areas of the United States and sometimes overseas.

VU’s Coast Guard Afloat Education Program is a unique resource that was developed in 2005. It allows Coast Guard personnel to complete requirements toward degree programs and update and improve both military and personal skills.

To help members of the Coast Guard reach their educational goals, VU instructors teach classes onboard a deployed ship or ashore.

One of those instructors is Dr. Gillian Kendall. She taught English 101 and 102 while sailing the Caribbean Sea on the USCGC Confidence earlier this year.

Dr. Gillian Kendall, VU instructor

Kendall said, “I love doing this work. I think it means a lot to the sailors because it’s a chance for them to do something that’s about them as individuals. In the classroom, they are not just their rank or their rate. They get to be individuals again with their individual ideas, opinions, curiosity, and feelings, and I think that they like that. It’s something different in their workdays, experiences, and career. The best part is they are earning college credits while they are working at sea. It’s very good for morale on a ship to have a civilian instructor helping people to work toward their undergraduate degree.”

VIQTORY, an organization connecting the military community to educational opportunities, named VU a Military Friendly School for 2020-2021 for the University’s support of service members, veterans, and their families.

David Tucker, VU Vice President of Workforce Development/Community Services

“VU is dedicated to offering high-quality educational options to Coast Guard personnel and military personnel as well as our partners in business and industry,” said VU Vice President of Workforce Development and Community Services David Tucker. “Military personnel can take advantage of the first-rate education that VU provides in far-flung and unusual locations that may not exactly resemble a traditional college campus. These pathways allow students to customize their educational goals to meet their unique needs and circumstances. VU is proud to provide academic excellence to the men and women who have given so much to our country.”

Most of Kendall’s students were first-time college students.

They called her “Doc” and each class met six days a week for one hour over 8 ½ weeks. Small class sizes allowed her to work one-on-one with students and give them extra attention to bolster their success. She also brought with her 20 to 30 books for students to read for pleasure in their downtime.

“The guys are in the middle of this really intense deployment,” Kendall said. “They might be called out at midnight to go off on a small boat in complete darkness in choppy waters to check out a vessel that may or may not be smuggling drugs. It might take three or four hours or five or six hours or more. They come back to the ship and report to the officers what happened. Then they might have to go shave and change and come to the class in the morning. I have incredible respect for these guys. They are the most hard-working students I’ve ever had.”  

For more information: See Coast Guard Afloat Education Program or contact VU Military Education Program Afloat Education Coordinator Ann Wells at

VU supports the military community, veterans, and their families in a variety of ways. 

To learn about VU’s Military Education Program, visit

VU’s Veterans Support Services assists veterans, dependents, National Guard/Reserve, and active-duty students to obtain educational benefits. See:

Active-duty personnel, reservists, guard members, and veterans with disabilities of any kind may request academic accommodations through the office of Diverse Abilities and Accommodations for VU courses. Information is available at