Service — and military service, in particular — was in her family’s DNA. In fact, Debbie Buchanan points to this quote from civil rights activist, educator and author Booker T. Washington as a life philosophy: “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
She ultimately rose to serve fellow veterans who are homeless as the executive director of the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative.
But joining the armed forces was never her original plan. Buchanan admired her teachers and wanted to be one herself.
Then a family tragedy struck: the death of her middle sister. Doing something completely different suddenly made sense. She joined the military, following in the footsteps of her father, a U.S. Army veteran.
“My father served in Vietnam,” Buchanan said. “Uncles on both sides of the family served, and I remembered seeing my dad’s uniform hanging in the closet, and wondered what it would be like to serve in the military.”
For the next six years, Buchanan served her country as an administrative specialist in the U.S. Army. She gained valuable professional experience and rose through the ranks. At the end of her tour, Buchanan knew she needed additional education, so she enrolled at MATC.
“As an adult, I knew I needed an educational environment that would accommodate my busy life,” Buchanan said. “The Army provided professional leadership experience, but I needed the education. MATC was the perfect choice.”
Buchanan earned an associate degree from MATC’s Supervisory Management Accelerated Program in 2000.
“I chose MATC because of its flexibility,” Buchanan said. “I knew I could go to school at night, and still maintain my life and full-time job.” The accelerated supervisory management program is designed for working adults, and includes online and evening classes. Classes are offered year-round, so students can complete the program in less than three years.
MATC students connected to the military have access to the college’s Military Education Support Office (MESO) and its Veterans Resource Center. Veterans also have a landing page linked directly on the matc.edu homepage.
Attending MATC followed a trail blazed by the two people she loved and respected the most: her mom and dad.
“My dad worked third shift in a factory and attended college part time at MATC back in the 1960s,” Buchanan said. “He graduated from MATC, then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Then he worked for 30 years as a cameraman for Channel 4.”
Buchanan’s mother earned an occupational therapy assistant associate degree from MATC and completed her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“Both of my parents have always been a huge influence,” Buchanan said.
Many MATC students go on to earn a four-year degree: Nearly 3,700 students transferred to a university in the most recent two-year period.
After she finished her supervisory management degree at MATC, Buchanan transferred to Cardinal Stritch University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in human services. She then landed jobs related to her desire to help people succeed.
As a service navigator with the Wisconsin Veterans Network, Buchanan used her administrative experience as a veteran to interact with other vets and connect them with community resources. She helped them find jobs, and sometimes food, clothing and shelter as well.
At another local nonprofit, Buchanan served in workforce development to assist low-income women enter non-traditional jobs.
Today, Buchanan is excited about her executive role at the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Initiative.
This lifelong learner said she knows the goodness and power of knowledge, and how it can help individuals serve others.
For more information on MATC’s accelerated Supervisory Management Program, visit: http://www.matc.edu/business/accelerated/supervisory-management.cfm or go to matc.edu/apply to start now.