We asked graduates to describe their journey to graduation. Here is what Aaron Pataluna (Security Management) had to say in his own words…

I really don’t feel my journey is any more unique than any of the other graduates who have been successful in juggling work, family and kids, and school. However, I did have one unexpected challenge to overcome this February. During the early morning hours of February 13, 2016 I was at work as a law enforcement officer stopped at a red light when a drunk driver (nearly three times the legal limit) hit my patrol vehicle at a high rate of speed (92 mph) resulting in a broken neck for me. Luckily my injury was stable, and I didn’t suffer paralysis or death as a result of the broken neck. However, it did make school difficult since working on a computer was extremely painful for me. Luckily, my professors at the time were completely understanding.

My experience at the University of Denver has really been a journey of self-growth. The rigors of juggling a home, work, family, social, and school life have been challenging. I chose not to take any quarters off, including summers, because I really felt it was important to push through for my family because they were the ones making the biggest sacrifices for me to go back to school. As far as the MS in Security Management itself goes I had a great experience, and I hope that it leads to on upper-management level job in the corporate world. I will say I was most surprised by the intensity of the quarter system at DU. My previous college experience was a traditional semester system, so trying to fit entire courses into a 10 week block was a challenge (especially since I took two courses each quarter except this last one). The professors were awesome and they really proved they were willing to help me achieve my goals. All I had to do was ask. I couldn’t write this without making special note of Dr. Steven McNally. I was ready to drop out of the program at the end of my very first week, and he convinced me to stay. He was easily the best professor I had during this entire program. I was devastated to learn of his unexpected death this spring, especially since he and I were supposed to meet for coffee two weeks later while I was visiting Florida.

As far as what graduation means to me, it is a sense of accomplishment and the culmination of countless hours spent working on school assignments, sometimes at the strangest times and places. Like sitting in a hotel bar (because it was the only place with free WiFi) in San Diego writing a paper that was due that night while my family was out seeing the sights, or during my break at work for 15 minutes in my patrol car. This program was one that challenged me to think, sometimes even when I had no intention of thinking about school. Case in point I was on a ride at EPCOT at Disney World when the narrator said something that my mind instantly connected to concepts of Security Management. I later used that idea as part of a paper I wrote. So for me graduation is ceremony to reflect upon this 18 month journey, the accomplishments I’ve had, the struggles I’ve overcome, finding time that I didn’t even know I had dedicated to making myself better, and most importantly the sacrifices my family, friends, and coworkers made to help me complete this challenge of personal growth.

Congratulations, Aaron!

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