Information Sciences and Technology

IST World Campus graduate, PA Guard captain pays education forward at Penn State

Capt. Francis Killeen aims to provide students and institutions with the same positive, ‘life-changing’ experience he received

U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Francis Killeen. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series of stories honoring members of the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) community during Penn State Military Appreciation Week). 

Pennsylvania Army National Guard Capt. Francis Killeen has served in the military for nearly two decades, first enlisting as a U.S. Army Cavalry Scout in 2003. He completed two deployments in Iraq — the second as part of Operation Enduring Freedom where he was attached to the 2-104th CAV, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team as a team leader, leading to a promotion to sergeant in 2009. Two years later, he decided to take a break from the military, then reenlisted in 2013 with the goal of becoming an officer.

He attended Officer Candidate School, where he commissioned as a second lieutenant. It was during this time that Killeen also began a master of professional studies degree program in cybersecurity and information assurance, which he earned in 2016 through Penn State World Campus. Now, while continuing to serve in the National Guard, Killeen also teaches College of Information Sciences and Technology courses online.

Why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree while in the military?  

I chose to pursue a master’s degree for several reasons. First, the Pennsylvania Army National Guard offers a tremendous number of financial incentives, especially for soldiers who may want to pursue a technical degree or certification and the traditional college route. The Pennsylvania Army National Guard helped pay for my master’s degree, which was a huge blessing. I specifically wanted to pursue my master’s degree because I wanted to jump-start my military career in cybersecurity operations.

Why did you choose Penn State and the IST program?

After several months of researching, I chose Penn State for a few reasons. First, Penn State prides itself on being a military-friendly school — which I found to be very true. The excellent reputation Penn State has with its military members is unquestionable. Secondly, the degree programs offered (specifically the IST program) is the best around. It’s very hard to find other colleges offering the same quality of instruction. Lastly, I wanted to go to a college that would offer me the best education, with the best instructors, and the make me the most marketable in the field I was pursuing. Penn State offered all of this and more.

Why did you decide to re-sign with the Guard?  

I knew I wanted to join the Army again because I missed being a part of something greater than myself. I also knew that I wanted to influence positive change, and, in my own opinion, I thought becoming an officer would put me into a position to do that. The call to pursue cybersecurity through Penn State World Campus was by far the best option for me. I simultaneously completed a Signal Basic Officer Leader’s course to become a 25A, which is all things communications — radios, servers and computers. At that time, I thought that becoming a signal officer and pursuing an MPS in cybersecurity would complement each other and make me more marketable in the industry

Why did you decide to become an adjunct instructor for World Campus?

I knew that I wanted to give back to the organization.  While going through the program as a student, I was provided with resources, strong and passionate leaders, that were heavily involved in my academic career. It's an experience that I will always cherish. When the opportunity displayed itself, I knew I should try for it. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to instruct and it's been a life-changing experience. At the end of the day, I want to provide my students, the facility and organization the same positive, life-changing experience that I received when I was going through the program.

Are you teaching any of the same courses that you once took as a student? If so, what is that experience like?

Yes, I have assisted or taught some of the classes that I have taken, and it is an absolute blessing and honor every day I get to interact with a student. My experience going through the IST program was wonderful and my expectation for myself is to pass it along the same wonderful experience that I had.

What is the impact or impression you hope to make on your students?

I want to establish a positive connection with them, whether it is through a hobby, place they traveled or something else meaningful to them. Then I build off that positive connection. I want students to first trust me, then I want them to build upon effective listening and communication. Along with instructing about security and risk analysis, I want them to walk away with life skills that they can improve upon that, in my hope, will be everlasting.

How do you draw on your military background in your role as an instructor?

Being in the military we are all at some point a leader, instructor or facilitator. Being able to communicate difficult concepts down to the lowest level, while meeting the commander’s intent and completing the mission, is engrained into all military members. I rely on these processes to positively impact the way I tackle my courses. Setting expectations for myself and the class, keeping structure while also allowing for creativity to flow, and being an effective listener and open communicator are the primary military lessons that I carry over into my teaching. 

What has been the most rewarding moment in your military career?

I would say graduating from Officer Candidate School. Only 14 out of 78 that started the course when I did, made it to graduation. It was mentally and physically challenging every day. It was an honor and privilege to commission that day.

Why are you proud to be a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard?

The Pennsylvania National Guard is filled with citizen soldiers and airmen. They are people who live in our communities that have volunteered to answer when called upon. We do federal missions through deployments and state missions through response to natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. It has been an honor to serve such a great organization, and I look forward to many more years.

Last Updated November 19, 2021