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Paul Pinkerton Finds “Breath of Fresh Air” in Boise State Military Programs

Paul Pinkerton and a friend pose in their military uniforms

From the outset, Paul Pinkerton had his worries about taking an online course.

A lifelong resident of Boise serving on the east coast for the United States Army, Pinkerton knew he wanted to connect to his hometown while searching for the right degree program. However, he said he was unsure about the transition to online schooling.

“I’ve always been more of a hands-on learner,” Pinkerton said. “I felt like I had to be in class taking in-person courses. I just grasp things better that way.”

That unfamiliarity with online learning eventually led him to Boise State University’s Preparing for Online Learning course (ACAD 107), a part of the university’s Academic Courses for Student Success.

“I loved that class. It was super beneficial to me since I had never done any kind of online school before,” Pinkerton said. “I thought it was a great way to introduce somebody to online school. I had never even used Google Drive before.”

After tackling the most common questions and concerns students usually approach online learning with, Pinkerton said through the course he was able to get a better grasp on programs like Zoom and Canvas, tools essential for excelling in the virtual classroom.

“I don’t think I would have been nearly as successful just jumping into an online class without taking ACAD 107,” he said.

A Boise native for most of his life, Pinkerton enlisted in the Army at 21. After dabbling in higher education through sponsored military programs, Pinkerton said he finally landed on Boise State Online’s courses after deciding he’d like to enroll in-person once his time in active duty came to an end. With a head start on his bachelor’s, Pinkerton said he hopes to graduate with a degree in business in just a couple years after returning to the Treasure Valley this April.

For Pinkerton, graduating will mean much more than just earning a diploma. While serving, Pinkerton rediscovered his love of martial arts through training in close-quarters combat. He said he began training from a young age when he lived in Idaho and then found a way to put his talents to use in the Army. His skills earned him a spot in the Army’s combatives master training program, and he eventually became a trainer himself.

From there, his passion for martial arts only grew. He and a few friends continued to train during their off-time, relegated to a garage once COVID-19’s effects across the country shut down local gyms. It was in that garage that Pinkerton and his fellow trainers decided to take matters into their own hands.

With the help of a friend who owned a local wrestling gym, they opened what is now known as Element Grappling in Fayetteville, North Carolina. There, anyone can learn the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Pinkerton said once he settles back down in the Boise area, he plans to open another Element Grappling location in the Treasure Valley and bring his passion back home for others to enjoy. Had it not been for the support and engagement he received while enrolling in Boise State Online’s courses designed for members of the military, that dream might not have become a reality.

“During COVID, the Army changed its education program,” Pinkerton said. “They transitioned to a new system, and my email was just going off, message after message saying my tuition was racking up and wasn’t getting paid for.”

The logistical change, Pinkerton said, would have been incredibly stressful had it not been for the dedication of Laura Porter, former Senior Outreach Coordinator for Boise State Military Programs.

“I definitely could not have done all of that myself. She was grinding, finding out as much information as she could,” Pinkerton said. “There was a ton of communication from her, trying to figure out how to get my schooling paid for. She ended up getting everything worked out somehow. There was a lot of stress going on, and she was a huge help.”

While Pinkerton said he’s looking forward to returning to an in-person classroom, he’s thankful for the flexibility Boise State Online’s courses offered him during his stint in the Army.

“For my personal life, it was a huge advantage. I can go work for the Army, come home at night and still have time to do my school work,” he said. “It does pull out a lot of stressors. It was a breath of fresh air to have really solid online courses to take.”

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