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March 16, 2011

"This school is in touch with the needs of working students."

South University Newsroom

Kerry L. Salinas
Class of 2010
Associate of Science, Paralegal Studies
Bachelor of Science, Legal Studies Columbia Campus
Employment: U. S. Army (retired) / Full-time Student

“It’s clear that this school is in touch with the needs of working students.”

“When you’re in the military,” says Kerry Salinas, “you get a lot of encouragement and support to continue your education—military and civilian. So, in 2001, as soon as I came back from a PCS [Permanent Change of Station] to Korea, I began studies in criminal justice. I always had an interest in that.”

During military service, she found her interest shifting to legal studies, and she found that South University offered not only the program she wanted but also scheduling and resources that met her needs. Kerry, who is 41, completed the Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies in March 2010, three months before she retired from a 20-year career in the U. S. Army. She re-enrolled the following October and is now working toward the Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies.

“My last assignment in the military was the most physically and emotionally challenging of my career,” she says. “I was a Senior Drill Sergeant, with two other Drill Sergeants responsible for shaping a platoon of 60 young recruits, many of them teenagers, into soldiers. “I was in my late thirties, only ‘five-foot-two,’ and I had to be able to do every push-up, every run, every march that those kids did. I also had to be attuned to the emotional needs of my soldiers, many of whom had no other adult guidance. I loved it, but it was really tough.”

In spite of the rigors of her job as Senior Drill Sergeant, Kerry made time to practice what she was preaching about higher education to her young soldiers. “South University offered the program I wanted, along with small classes, convenient scheduling, and easy access to the computer labs and library. It’s clear that this school is in touch with the needs of working students.

“I really appreciated the faculty connecting classroom instruction to the outside world. Mr. Ripley Thames was such an exciting instructor because we analyzed actual case studies. We students brought in real-life scenarios, too. This gave us a strong practical understanding of the legal system.” Attending a seminar with legal professionals from the community was a highlight of her South University experiences. “A judge presented a courtroom lecture, followed by a question and answer session. This was a great day, and it strongly reaffirmed my decision to retire from the military and build a second career in the legal profession.

“I loved being in the military,” says Kerry, “and especially in my last assignment, I saw lives transformed. It was an incredible experience to see my soldiers marching onto the field for the basic training graduation ceremony, but I knew it was time to change course. Extending my service would mean a new deployment for me, and, in turn, a new high school for my teenage son. He is my number one priority now, and my studies are a close second. My son and I can spend more time together, which includes planning for his college education. And, thanks to South University, I can look forward to a new career in a field that I find fascinating and challenging.”