All hands on deck to help sailor achieve dream of becoming officer

Dean Jensen (left) served in the Navy as an enlisted sailor before GCU helped him achieve his goal of becoming a naval officer.

Tucson, Arizona, native Dean Jensen planned to go to college. But, instead, destiny took over.

The Grand Canyon University alumnus is the third generation of his family to serve in the military. His grandfather was in the Air Force and Navy, followed by his father, who joined at age 18 and served for 20 years.

But Jensen, who made the jump from sailor to officer, couldn’t have envisioned what he would accomplish in his military career, which included his last deployment as an antiterrorism officer. He’s currently at sea, serving as an operations officer, which means helping managing the operation of a military command and answering to executive officers.

Jensen had his mind set on attending GCU after visiting campus his junior year of high school.

“We were able to visit the entire campus and even the cadaver lab. That was the very first time I saw somebody laying on a table. I knew right then and there that I wanted to go to GCU and be a surgical technician.”

But by the time high school graduation came around, Jensen’s life plans changed.

“I’m not sure what happened between that moment and high school graduation, but I ended up enlisting in the military instead of attending college. Junior year I made the decision to join the Navy, and I enlisted the summer of senior year.”

Just two months after he graduated, Jensen left for boot camp and, not long after that, had his first command in Williamsburg, Virginia, and served as a culinary specialist for many years.

Then while in his first nine-month deployment in the United Arab Emirates, he decided he wanted to become a naval officer, so enrolled at American Military University.

But he still dreamed of GCU and transferred once he found an online bachelor’s program in public safety and emergency management.

“I have a huge passion for this field, and I thought it was awesome that GCU had exactly what I wanted. I was able to transfer and, even better, I was able to get a fresh start with my GPA,” he said.

Jensen loved his online experience and ended up graduating with honors.

“I was treated as if I was one of the ground campus students present in real classrooms. Professors genuinely cared that we were understanding the material. Whenever I would call during office hours, I always received a response immediately. Every class had the same foundation, and that made all the difference.

“I was very impressed with myself because I never had anything above 2.8 in high school. I really didn’t think I had it in myself to get those kinds of grades in college because I didn’t do it in high school.”

In his last semester at GCU, Jensen was completing schoolwork while simultaneously building his officer package.

His application for commission was due just a week after graduation. He was worried because his college degree was weeks away from being delivered, and he needed proof of school completion for his application.

“Without ever saying it’s impossible, the staff at GCU immediately said that is completely OK, and they will send it over to me within 24 hours. I didn’t even know that was possible, but they told me ‘You are using this degree for a career change; therefore, we will make it happen for you.’”

Twenty-four hours later, Jensen received his transcripts and submitted his package. He applied to Officer Candidate School as a surface warfare officer and was selected.

Jensen proceeded to his first command, the USS Mesa Verde, whose homeport is in Norfolk, Virginia. He served onboard as an auxiliary officer and antiterrorism officer.

After discovering how much he enjoys it, he decided to return for a second tour. Jensen is deployed as an assistant operations officer, something that might not have happened without, first, his “strongest supporting foundation,” his wife, and without GCU.

“If I had never gone to GCU, without a doubt, I would not be in the military anymore. I was contemplating getting out before, but GCU gave me a newfound respect for school and applying myself a little bit further than what I think I can do.

“It was a challenging time, but in a good way. It was absolutely rewarding, and I took so much out of it.”

GCU staff writer Izabela Fogarasi can be reached at [email protected]

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