Veteran Steven Hakansson Returns to School, Earns Second Master’s Degree Online

After serving his country for five years in the United States Navy, Steven Hakansson was at a crossroads after becoming a civilian again.

“When I got out, I was lost and didn’t know what to do,” he said. “My wife, Cristina, is a third-grade teacher. She suggested that I try substitute teaching and see if I liked it. The first class I did was special education, and I fell in love with it immediately.”

Hakansson, who teaches kindergarten-through-fifth grade history and special education, graduated from the online Master of Arts – History program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) in October 2022. He works at Katherine G. Johnson Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington.

“I have always had a passion for history,” he said. “I got my undergraduate degree in history. I finished my master’s degree in education, took a year off, and felt like it was time to go back to school, expand my knowledge and make myself a more effective teacher.”

The online format of the master’s degree program was ideal for Hakansson to continue teaching full time and go back to school. He and Cristina also have three children — Johanna (15), Liam (13) and Paloma (11).

“I liked that the program at EWU was exclusively online,” he said. “They were also responsive and flexible with my schedule, which helped a lot.

“That was the biggest thing — being able to continue to work and have enough to time to focus on a program — especially an accelerated program like this one. I like the idea of getting it done in a year without having to drag it out. It worked out great for me.”

Finding his Groove

Hakansson is from the San Francisco East Bay area. He enlisted in the Navy in 2008, serving in Washington and Connecticut and finishing his tenure ranked as an E-4 Leading Petty Officer.

After completing a one-year internship at the Washington State History Museum following his military career, Hakansson graduated from the University of Washington with his bachelor’s degree in 2019 and Pacific Lutheran University with his first master’s degree the following year.

“I had taken some online courses during my undergraduate program,” he said. “I also did a couple of online classes during my first master’s degree program, so it wasn’t new to me when I enrolled at Eastern Washington.”

Three courses stood out to Hakansson during his 13 months in the online Master of Arts – History program: Early American History to 1783, Introduction to World History and Portfolio and Professional Development for Historians, the capstone course.

“I liked Early American History to 1783 because it’s a period of history that I am especially interested in,” he said. “World History gave me a different perspective of how history can be viewed and used in modern times.

“The capstone was fun to work on and go in my own direction. I did mine on Rogers’ Rangers, a group of soldiers in the French and Indian War who were the predecessors to United States Army Rangers.”

Hakansson also incorporated the information he learned in the program to round out his skills as an educator.

“I liked going in-depth into new areas, creating the community in learning history itself,” he said. “It helps with families and introducing them to what their students are learning. Going deeper into the meaning of history and why we study it was absolutely applicable.”

Full Speed Ahead

Now that he has a second master’s degree, Hakansson and his family are happy to spend more time together, hunting and finishing during their free time. However, his higher education journey is not finished yet.

“My wife and kids were supportive of me and excited for me,” he said. “They were glad when I submitted that last paper. I’d like to complete my Ph.D. in history or education. That’s probably the next step.

“I’d like to have an administrative role in education, but I definitely want to remain in some aspect of education. Having this degree will help open some opportunities for me in my career.”

Hakansson believes a full commitment to school is the key to success as an online student in the Master of Arts – History program.

“It’s important to be open-minded to pushing your boundaries as a scholar,” he said. “You have to be ready to work hard and think outside the box. It’s fast-paced. If you don’t have the time to commit to it, it’s probably not for you.

“I absolutely got good value out of the online Master of Arts – History program at Eastern Washington University. I am glad I did it.”

Learn more about EWU’s online Master of Arts – History program.

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