May 29, 2024

Aiming High: Recognizing Lola Howard’s Dual Role as CSU Student and Air Force Development Advisor

May is Military Appreciation Month, a special month that CSU is proud to celebrate. For those like Lola Howard who have served and are currently serving, we thank you for your commitment and sacrifice for our country.

The spark of Lola Howard’s passion for education began as a young child, reading her mother’s set of red encyclopedias. Her mother would make her, and her siblings find a word in one of the encyclopedias, learn about it and write a paragraph on it. If someone told that little girl that one day she would be pursuing her doctoral degree, some may not have believed it, but Lola would have.

“My father passed away when I was five, and my mom fled from Baltimore, Maryland, with me and my siblings to provide a better life for us,” she said. “That included living with others and living in homeless shelters before she was able to stabilize our lifestyle. During those humble beginnings, sometimes the motivation was just to get through another day and survive. Pursuing a Ph.D. program was unheard of in my circumstances.”

After graduating from high school, Lola committed herself to serving her country by enlisting in the Air Force.

“I initially joined the Air Force to escape the fear of accumulating mounds of college debt or falling into a job and never attending college at all,” she said. “There was no secret pot of money for me to attend school, so I wanted to take matters into my own hands to secure a college education and steady income, and I knew joining the Air Force would provide that. Additionally, I knew I would be able to travel the world, which I know I would have never done if I didn’t step out on a leap of faith.”

Lola’s military journey started at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas. In the beginning, Lola worked for a professional military education schoolhouse for four and a half years.

“Though I worked in an HR capacity, the instructors learned my niche for teaching and would let me do courses where it didn’t require credentials,” she said. “My journey was on an upward trajectory. Because of this knack, at all my duty stations moving forward, I have prioritized tapping into the professional development centers to teach various classes such as ethical decision-making, goal setting, study habits/skills, mentorship and a myriad of other courses.”

Lola during her time in the service.

Lola (middle) poses for a picture with her fellow service members.

During her 21 years of service, Lola’s duties have taken her all over the world, just as she had hoped.

“After Arkansas, I went to Albuquerque, New Mexico,” she said. “Next was Kunsan, Korea for a year then Guam for 2 years. I then went back to the United States and was stationed at Joint Base McGuire Fort Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey. I went to Osan Air Base Back to Korea for a year. After that, I spent two amazing years in Italy and traveled to over 15 countries while there. I was then at Okinawa, Japan and traveled to five different countries from there before COVID. Now, I am stationed at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.”

“During my time in the military, if an opportunity presented itself, big or small, I took advantage of it,” she said. “Once I saw what the Air Force offered, I tried to leave no stone unturned. It has been fun and fulfilling, and it is nothing like I could have ever imagined.”

In 2021, Lola received her dream job as a development advisor where she provides professional development and career advisement for active duty, guard and reserve wings to over 3,500 enlisted, officer and civilian employees.

“In this job, I have also been able to be a mentor in the local high schools in Arizona, Arizona State University Reserve Officer Training Center (ROTC) and served as a keynote speaker at local school graduations and community colleges,” she said. “All the while, during my career, I have pursued my master’s degree and mentored hundreds of coworkers and mentees in pursuing an education. Now, I get to teach others how to keep this legacy going. Education, learning, and development arenas are ever-present, refreshing and pure delight, fueling my passion for education.”

Lola says the most rewarding part of her job is knowing every single day, she is providing someone with a way forward—a window of opportunity.

“If someone is coming to my office for a counseling session or one of my personal/professional development courses, I know it is to make them a better person,” she said. “Better for themselves, better for their teams, better for the organization. Being able to provide a way forward for someone is an invaluable experience that I provide every day.”

Although her job consists of assisting others in their path to education, Lola has not hit the brakes on her own educational journey as she is actively pursuing her doctoral degree in organizational leadership at Columbia Southern University.

“My reasoning for pursuing the Doctor of Organizational Leadership program has many layers,” she said. “One is because I currently work in the training and development field, where I am charged with developing others on personal, professional and organizational growth and leadership. I want to arm myself with the history, evolution and various theories on organizational leadership. Another reason I chose this program is that I have gained such a passion for learning and development in organizations that I would like to become an adjunct professor to teach others how to apply their skills in organizations.”

In her time at CSU, Lola was selected as Columbia Southern University’s Student Veterans of America president.

“As the president of CSU’s Student Veterans of America Chapter, it will allow me to fill two passions: education and pouring into veterans,” she said. Student Veterans of America’s mission is to ‘act as a catalyst for student veteran success by providing resources, network support and advocacy to, though and beyond higher education’. This group is ultimately important so veterans at Columbia Southern University know they have a safe space for resources, camaraderie and advocacy within the school. It is truly an honor to serve the veteran community the best way I can.”

Lola says one of her goals as president is to recreate the connection most veterans lose when they leave the military.

“It is imperative that our student veterans know that they are not alone in their educational journey and CSU supports them,” she said. “The other part of my goal, in addition to spreading the word on the chapter, is to hear the voice of our veteran population. What do they need? How can we help them? I plan to accomplish this through voting polls and monthly meetings.”

The piece of advice Lola shares with all students pursing their degree is to start with the end in mind.

“When you decide to start, knowing your end goal will be a constant motivation to keep going on those late nights, moments of sacrifice and sometimes feelings of defeat,” she said. Whatever that ‘end’ is, they should write it down and post it in important places. If anyone comes to my house, I have sticky notes beside my bed, on my bathroom mirror and randomly around the house to reinforce my ‘why.’”

To all CSU Knights that have served in the military, Lola wants you to know, she stands with you and always will.

“I empathize with you, I understand you, and want you to know that you are never alone,” she said. “Those who serve(d) are an elite group of individuals, and they will always have someone they can reach out to for connection, a shoulder to lean on or resources as necessary.”

To learn more about CSU’s Student Veterans Association and how to join, visit


Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes.
CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.