NSU student receives doctorate while serving overseas

Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive. It’s not a bird, it’s not a plane and it’s not Superman — it’s First Lieutenant John M. Saindon Jr., a 2010 NSU graduate and member of the U.S. Army Reserve.

While Saindon pursued his doctorate in health science, he was in active duty in Baghdad. He studied, did his homework, wrote papers for class and saved lives — every day. He also taught biology and environmental science to his fellow soldiers. He said he did it all because he loved it.

“I wanted to do something constructive and worthwhile. I wanted to make a difference,” he said. “It got me excited to wake up at 4:30 a.m. because I enjoyed the work.”

All his hard work paid off. Saindon received his degree from NSU on May 17 during a special graduation ceremony held in the Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad.

More than 79 soldiers from 21 schools graduated during the ceremony, but Saindon was the only one to receive a doctorate. He is now working on his Ph.D. through NSU’s online health science program, which will allow him to conduct research.

Saindon has extensive experience in the health science field. As a member of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), he was a health operations officer. He was responsible for the health and welfare of his fellow soldiers, especially during outbreaks, like the H1N1 virus.

“If there was a need and I had the ability and the skill set to do it, I would do it,” he said.

Saidon used that mindset to take on the task of teaching other soldiers in active duty, who would have had to wait a year to complete their education otherwise. As a University of Maryland faculty member, Saindon had 35 to 40 students per class. His students included Navy, Air Force and the Army members. Saindon said the classes helped students have a sense of normalcy and routine during the chaos of the war.

“We would be in the middle of class and we would hear gunfire and bombs going off, but class put everybody’s mind at ease. It was like the TV was on. You just put it aside,” he said.

Saindon said it was important to be positive no matter what. He said that students sometimes doubt whether they made the right decision about their studies, but that they should keep working if they love what they’re studying.

“No matter what degree you’re going for or what your background is, you just have to push through and you will achieve it,” he said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Saindon finished his 407 days of active duty and is now in the Reserve.

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