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Leadership Skills and ACE Credit Recommendations Propel Firefighter to Degree

November 14, 2018

Picture of Anson Turley and advisor Kimberly McCoy
Anson​ Turley & NKU Advisor Kim McCoy ​​​​​​


​Expanding Flexible Completion Pathways

As part of a national strategy embedded in our strategic commitments​, ACE is helping post-traditional learners achieve success by expanding flexible completion pathways through innovative learning. 

ACE’s Center for Education Attainment and Innovation (CEAI) serves these learners by supporting extra-institutional training providers—military, government, and community-based nonprofit and corporate organizations—and promoting work-based l​earning practices and policies to provide affordable, high-quality, flexible completion pathways. Flexible completion pathways recognize that learning is fluid, ongoing and occurs in multiple contexts. These pathways incorporate validated learning experiences into formal workforce and postsecondary credentials. 

The spotlight below is the third in a series highlighting post-traditional students who have used ACE credit recommendations as part of a flexible completion pathway.

Post-traditional Learner Spotlight: Anson Turley 

Credentialing for Career Mobility

At 50 years old, firefighter Anson Turley is completing his bachelor’s degree. Turley joined the Cincinnati Fire Department as a young adult and after 30 years currently serves as an assistant fire chief. He has always had a good job without a college degree. For Turley the turning point came when he applied for the position of chief.  “Despite my 30 years of service, I was not even granted an opportunity to interview because I did not have a bachelor’s degree. I knew then that a degree was important not only for my current plans but also any plans I would pursue after leaving the department.”  

Turley enrolled at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) to begin coursework for a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. At first, he was unaware that participation in a myriad of job training for certifications could be used for college credit. Then, academic advisor in NKU’s Adult Learner Programs and Services (ALPS​), Kimberly McCoy, introduced him to credit for prior learning (CPL) options. Entering the program with no college credits, Turley was able to earn 41 credit hours through the transfer of his ACE credit recommendations for work-related training from the National Emergency Training Center and Texas Engineering Extension Service and completion of multiple CLEP and DSST exams, two nationally recognized testing programs, in less than a year’s time. 

Opportunities for Adult Learners

NKU’s programs ticked all the boxes for Turley: regional accreditation, a brick-and-mortar school and course scheduling that fits working learners with family responsibilities. At NKU, learners like Turley can take classes once or twice a week in an accelerated format, completing a traditional 16-week course in half the time.  Academic advisor Kimberly McCoy notes that over the past several years, with the expansion of credit for prior learning programs at NKU, there has been a 60 percent increase of students seeking credit for prior learning. “Credit shouldn’t only be given for learning that occurs within four walls—we should explore all avenues to give credit for prior learning.” 

Support from People and Programs

Attending college was always Turley’s long-term goal, but work and family responsibilities—including caring for his 84-year-old father, who has Alzheimer’s—took priority. With his children older and his wife as his biggest cheerleader, Turley views his family as the most critical source of support.  At the same time, his workplace has offered encouragement along the way. “My colleagues understand what I am trying to accomplish and constantly check on my progress to make sure I don’t give up. And I am fortunate that I earn a good salary and have tuition reimbursement through the city.” 

Learning through Leading

After 30 years in the fire service, Turley has learned the value of good leadership. “I am intrigued by the opportunity to study leadership as a science and use the lessons I’ve learned in every aspect of my life.” Beyond the career opportunities open to him upon obtaining a degree, Turley sees meaningful benefits: “Now more than ever it is important to think critically about the information that we are consuming. I believe that a community that values education and critical thinking is more tolerant to diversity and inclusion. And I want to live in a diverse and inclusive world.” ​

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