The Secret to a Happy Marriage: Mastering Diplomacy

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On June 15, 2012,  two married couples, Jason and Rodiana Andis and Ryan and Anthea Chlebek, were among the smiling faces at Norwich University’s 2012 commencement ceremony for the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies. Not only were the husband and wife teams there to offer support to their spouses at the ceremony, all four were walking across the stage to receive a diploma, each having earned a master’s degree through the online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program. While their journeys through graduate school were challenging, each couple met this challenge by providing support and understanding which helped them grow and succeed along the way.

Meet the Couples

Ryan and Anthea Chlebek have been married for over six years. The two met on an academic field trip to Washington, DC while undergraduates at the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduation, both served as Captains in the Army, and both were then deployed to Iraq for fifteen months although they were stationed in different places. From the Army Anthea and Ryan transitioned to consulting careers at Booz Allen Hamilton, and their passion for the foreign service field led them on a search for an online master’s degree in diplomacy.

When asked why the couple chose Norwich for an online graduate program, Anthea replied, “Norwich had all the elements we were looking for. It had a Master’s in Diplomacy, an online program - which was important for us because we also wanted to work full time, it was affordable, and it came recommended by a couple of our classmates from West Point.”

Anthea started the program six months before Ryan but when it came down to writing papers both relied on each other for proof reading and providing a sounding board for ideas. After a proofread paper was finalized the two would celebrate by going out to dinner.

While some couples might be concerned about being in an online program at the same time, for Chlebeks, according to Ryan, “It was comforting because each of us knew what the other was going through.”  The couple also made the conscious decision to write on different paper topics in their courses so they were able to complete their papers, in Ryan’s words, “without any previous bias and with a fresh set of eyes.”  

The second couple, Jason and Rodiana Andis will be married six years in September, and have a four year-old daughter, Isabella. They are both certified scuba divers, love traveling and extreme sports. Like the Chlebeks their career passions led them to seek a master’s in diplomacy. Rodiana, for example, has had a life-long dream of working for the U.S. State Department in an embassy. Unlike the Chlebek’s, their first time “living” in a college dorm was during the Norwich University Residency Week, as both Jason and Rodiana completed their undergraduate degrees as working adults. The “residency” aspect of the Norwich program added credibility and made the graduate school experience even more memorable.

According to Rodiana, the selection of the online diplomacy program at Norwich was driven by both by reputation and flexibility. “The diplomacy program at Norwich seemed very challenging but at the same time doable. Having a full time profession, a toddler, and a husband with a business, this made it easier for me to continue my education and to be able to complete the program.”

For Jason and Rodiana, who started the Master of Arts in Diplomacy at the same time, being in the same program was, “Very competitive,” according to Rodiana.  “Jason and I were both challenging each other on our assignments and most importantly on our papers. We both wanted to get the best grades on everything that we did during the seminars,” Rodiana continued.  While this competitiveness might be a cause of friction in some couples, for Jason and Rodiana it was viewed positively, helping them to improve the quality of their work, and being able to witness one another dedicate time and energy toward a shared goal.

Would They Do it Over Again?

When queried as to whether they would do it all over again, both couples agreed resoundingly, they “absolutely” would do it again.  In fact, Rodiana would like to see Jason and herself enroll in a PhD program together at some point in the future. Interestingly, the Chlebek’s and Andis’s are not the only couples to begin, and successfully complete, a graduate program in tandem at Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies. At this year’s ceremony alone, there were nursing, diplomacy and engineering couples who stood side by side at graduation when degrees were conferred. Perhaps diplomacy can be learned and taught, and marriages strengthened and solidified, through all of the Norwich University degree programs.

Tips for Succeeding in Graduate School as a Couple

Considering entering graduate school with your spouse?  The Chlebeks and Andis's offer up some great advice for pursuing a graduate degree together.

Jason and Rodiana’s Tips:

  • Stay focused.
  • Don’t forget about each other.
  • If you have children, make time for them, but be selective about the activities.
  • Prioritize, which may mean missing out on “girl’s night” or a birthday party.
  • Motivation and dedication are key.  Know that what you are giving up, in the short-term, contributes to both of your futures.

Ryan and Anthea’s Tips:

  • Remind yourself that it is okay to let the small things go.
  • Work as a team by helping each other out.
  • Challenge each other, but don’t be competitive.
  • Support each other, but write about what interests you.
  • Always remember that if any aspect of the program gets tough, you’re going through it together and you will make it through together.