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Career paths don’t always go as planned. Steven Hershfeldt has now been in the military for almost fifteen years, even though it wasn’t his original plan. Now, Hershfeldt is excited to graduate from the David O. McKay School of Education with a master’s degree in educational leadership. He plans to integrate the military experiences he’s had into his future career in order to become a stronger leader in the classroom.

“When I went to college and looked at all the majors, I decided I’d like to be a teacher, a secondary teacher, because you can influence so many people that way,” shared Hershfeldt, who taught US History and US Government, as well as coached the JV baseball and basketball teams at Box Elder High School.

Stephen Hershfeldt
Photo Credit: 
Stephen Hershfeldt

Hershfeldt started his career as an educator at Box Elder High School in Brigham City, Utah, but left due to financial concerns for his growing family. He joined the military, where he now has had almost fifteen years of experience.

The military generously offers a program for active duty officers to pursue a master’s degree, but the degree must showcase benefits to the army as well as to the officer. For Hershfeldt, it posed a challenge to convince the army that a master’s in education would be mutually beneficial.

“Most guys that are doing what I’m doing are getting MBAs and MPAs, so there were a lot of important people [that] had to be convinced. Getting into BYU was pretty tough because ... if [the army] is going to pay for a master’s degree, they want you to get something that will help you in the army, not just to help you,” explained Hershfeldt. “I had to convince them that the leadership program and education would also benefit the army. It’s a leadership program, and leadership applies to so much more than education. It applies to everything.”

Serving in the military brought Hershfeldt multiple opportunities to practice being a teacher and a leader.

“There are so many parallels between the military and education. There’s a big bureaucracy you have to work through to get things done. They tell you to do things and you still have to work through those. In the army, we do everything we can to get our soldiers ready for everything they do, and it’s just like in education where [we’re] getting [our] students ready for everything that they need,” Hershfeldt said. “It translates pretty well for what we do. The military has given me a lot of opportunities to both teach and lead. It’s a different type of teaching and leading, but it’s still something that you can gain a lot of experience from, and it will benefit you regardless of what you pursue afterwards. I have no regrets about going into the military. I have no regrets retiring from the military and going back to education”

After graduation, Hershfeldt will spend around three more years in the army before returning to a career in education. Hershfeldt plans to incorporate his experiences of living abroad and serving as a leader in the military into his future career as an educator.

“It’s been a privilege going to BYU and working with the people I work with. The BYU master’s program has been the most meaningful part of my education. I got a lot out of it and I’ve made a lot of contacts. I can’t wait to finish my time in the army and continue the work I started a long time ago,” shared Hershfeldt.

Hershfeldt is from Evanston, Wyoming. In 1997, Hershfeldt graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s in secondary education. He received his master’s in leadership studies from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2008, and he graduates from BYU’s Educational Leadership and Foundations program in August 2017. He is married with five children, one of which is currently serving a mission in Cambodia.

Writer: Janine Swart