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This past August, 11 representatives from area colleges and universities participated in an education night at Southeastern Correctional Complex’s Lancaster Unit. A representative from the Union Education Trust and the institution’s personnel director were also both there.
The event was the idea of Evan Diehl, a training officer and equal opportunity chair, who had worked for more than a year to make it happen.
“I’m a huge advocate for people here in our little corner of the world, to get their education,” Diehl said.
Having so many sources of information in one place helped with the flow of information, he added.
“People could ask ‘What does this program offer?’ or ‘How do I use UET?’” he said, adding that he expects next year’s event to be larger.
Diehl, who has worked for more than 29 years for the state of Ohio and recently retired after 30 years in the Army and Air National Guard, is an ideal advocate for his co-workers continuing their educations. He understands the challenges of being an adult learner because 10 years ago he decided to return to school to finish the associate’s degree he’d started and didn’t finish after high school.
“I had my struggles with school when I first got out of high school, so that kind of discouraged me,” Diehl said.
“For so many years, with raising kids and getting through life, I didn’t consider going back to school,” he added.
Diehl jokes that it took from 1983-2009 to finish his associate’s degree. He’d initially studied recreation and wildlife, a program that he’s not even sure still exists. When he returned to Hocking in 2006, he began studying Human Services and Corrections using UET funds.
“People ask ‘Why school now?’” Diehl said. “I still consider myself young.”
Diehl continued with his education, earning his bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University’s Climb program, an accelerated program for adult learners, in organizational management in 2015. He was able to apply the post 9/11 GI Bill to the expense of school.
“I could have studied criminal justice or organizational management,” Diehl said. “With all my years of experience on the front line, I wanted a different perspective.”
But he wasn’t done with his education, saying that “To open up as many doors as you can, to have more options, you need a master’s degree.”
Using UET and the remainder of the GI Bill funds, Diehl is now one month into his master’s of management degree at Ohio Christian University. The program is a spinoff of a traditional MBA program. He attends classes every Monday night on campus and works daily on homework and preparation for the next class. One thing he doesn’t have to juggle: tuition bills.
“I think UET is a wonderful program,” Diehl said. “Thank goodness for UET, I have to pay for my books, and that’s it!”
“That’s the thing: I think people don’t always realize how much it can pay for.”
But he’s trying to spread the word about this excellent union benefit provided by OCSEA, both through the college night as well as in his daily job. Diehl’s role enables him to speak with both the new hires as well as the employees with more seniority. He encourages all to do their research to find the right educational program that fits their schedules and needs, pointing out that today there are many accelerated programs that cater to adult learners.
“I get all the new people in here and I can talk to them,” Diehl said. “The benefit is I have been through the educational process. They’ll say ‘Hey, Evan has been through it, let’s go talk to him.’”
Diehl added that when people see that he cares, he gains important credibility.
“The main piece is being able to foster a relationship,” Diehl said. “It helps in my advocacy to these folks in the institution.”