(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories honoring members of the College of Information Sciences and Technology community during Penn State Military Appreciation Week).
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Recent Penn State World Campus graduate Bryan Hill was beyond appreciative that he was able to watch his August commencement ceremony from his home in North Carolina, which was livestreamed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coincidentally, COVID-19 is what disrupted Hill’s original plans to travel to State College for his commencement ceremony.
A petty officer second class in the U.S. Navy, Hill was deployed domestically this past summer, overseeing a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Philadelphia. Over the course of 12 weeks, Hill led a team that inoculated thousands of individuals in the region. In addition to preparing vaccinations and managing people, supplies and logistics, Hill himself delivered more than 6,000 shots.
“COVID-19 has definitely been an enemy that we have been underestimating,” Hill said. “Hearing the stories of those people who have been lost to the disease was really a wakeup call for me, realizing the importance of people needing to get vaccinated.”
He added, “Being able to give those shots and help those people, but also being able to listen to their stories and knowing that you were able to make that difference in their lives, is a powerful feeling.”
All the while, Hill was completing his final courses to earn his bachelor’s degree in security and risk analysis, one of the information technology degrees offered online through Penn State World Campus. He would give vaccinations during the day, then work on his coursework at night.
“The military schedule was quite brutal for those 90 days,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of free time, and I had to sacrifice quite a bit of sleep, but I was determined to finish the semester. Being able to balance a full course load was a unique challenge with the various capacities I was serving as part of the mission.”
Building on a unique skill set
Driven by a desire to find a stronger purpose in life and a will to help others, Hill joined the military in 2010. Born and raised in Utah, Hill also wanted the chance to see the world. He was motivated by his desire to serve and pursued a path in military health care — ultimately becoming a hospital corpsman and behavioral health specialist.
In those roles, he’s been tasked with using quantifiable data and qualitative analysis to help recommend potential placements of Marines into positions that best match their skills and backgrounds.
“Being able to identify that unique operator or potential future operator and get them into a potential pipeline helps lead to overall organizational success for a mission by finding the right talent and the right person for a job,” he said.