Military student finds academic excellence and support at KU in Leavenworth

Sean McFarling applies what he’s learned to his military career and preparing for life afterward

Sean McFarling, military Leavenworth grad

When Major Sean McFarling was looking for the best educational program to accompany his year at Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kansas, he knew exactly which school he wanted to earn his master’s degree through.

“When people hear KU, they understand the value of the University of Kansas, and their contribution to our national culture,” McFarling said. “I chose KU because I wanted a master’s degree that has mobility in civilian life, and that supports my development as an organizational leader.” In addition to his degree, McFarling was awarded the Major General James M. Wright Master Logistician Award by the CGSC Foundation.

KU in Leavenworth offers online and in-person degree programs that can be completed in as little as one year. Students can pursue a Bachelor of General Studies, or a master’s degree in engineering, project management, homeland security, organizational leadership, supply chain management and logistics or global and international studies. McFarling applied his coursework from Leavenworth’s Master of Science in Organizational Leadership program toward the Working Master of Business Administration, which he completed in May.

Several Leavenworth degree programs include both military and civilian students in classes, which McFarling says has helped give him added perspective in his studies. “Having the perspective of our civilian counterparts, and the transferability of concepts between military and civilian corporate culture, there are nuances that provide us with a different perspective from the military standpoint,” McFarling said. “It’s been great to be grounded back more into the civilian institution, because that’s who we serve on a daily basis.”

McFarling says the transferable concepts he’s learning won’t just help in his military career. The strategic and systems thinking skills he’s picked up, in addition to communication skills, will also serve him after he completes his military experience.

“There are definitely things that enable our transition in the military from a company-grade officer to a field-grade officer, but it also allows us to understand concepts within civilian markets and apply those within a military framework,” McFarling said. “This program has also given us a lot of insight into the civilian market that has transferability for whenever we decide we want to transfer into the civilian workforce.”

Steven Leonard, program director for the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership in the KU School of Business, has gotten to see firsthand how McFarling applies what he’s learning in his class at Leavenworth.

“The organizational leadership program was designed to weave together experience, study, and reflection, an environment where Sean truly excels,” Leonard said. “He is an exceptional student who makes a concerted effort to add context to the learning experience. There are many nights when you can literally see the wheels turning as Sean pulls together what we studied that week with his personal experiences. That's exactly what we aim for.”

The quality of the experience extends beyond the classroom. McFarling says that throughout his KU in Leavenworth studies, the campus staff has given him outstanding support. “I’ve been exceedingly impressed with the level of investment and caring that the Jayhawk family has provided us throughout the program.”

Beth Tucker, Leavenworth student and program coordinator, says providing guidance to students and helping them meet their educational goals is a valuable part of her position. “Our programs are fast-paced for students in the military, and I am here to assist and identify the best support for our students, including those who are serving,” Tucker said. “It’s an opportunity to help shape the future through the action, choices and behaviors of today.”

For McFarling that support was exemplified by follow-up when the COVID-19 pandemic required classroom models to quickly pivot to online instruction. “The support staff has been great. Beth Tucker sent an email to all the students in our program confirming that we had no questions about the transition to the online learning model we’ll be using, and using Zoom as our online instruction model,” McFarling said.

McFarling says he’s recommended the organizational leadership program, and the Leavenworth campus, to several people who have contacted him for more information about CGSC. “To me it’s the value of the education and the investment that KU provides to their students, and the care that they have for those who are attending,” McFarling said. “I’ve recommended the program with the reasoning that it forces you to do more reflection and consider other perspectives that make you a better leader. As a military leader, you can go into your next assignment as prepared as you possibly can be.”

Headed to Command and General Staff College? Click on the button below to download a guide to help you consider your options and learn more about KU’s programs in Leavenworth. One year of quality education can help you plan for the next 10 years of your military or private sector career. 

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