By Jamie Shoaf, ‘11

Right out of high school, Larry Dumlao knew that a career in the Air Force was the right thing to do. He excelled in the Pararescue division, where daily tasks could range from searching for trapped victims in a building to rescuing fellow service men and women from hostile attacks.

Classroom studies have played a significant role in Dumlao’s life. He has taught classes for rescue planning with the Department of Defense for several years. In this program, students learn search theory to provide them with excellent working knowledge of its application in maritime or aeronautical environments.

“I really enjoy meeting people and just teaching in general in my classes,” says Dumlao of his teaching experiences. “Still being able to contribute to brothers and sisters in uniform gives me a great feeling by helping to keep people out of harm’s way.”

He always knew he wanted to return to school to earn an undergraduate degree, although doing so became a viable option only after retiring from the Air Force. After taking a few classes at Germanna Community College, he began a search for a more complete undergraduate experience that would still provide flexibility with his work and personal life.

After researching several schools near his home in Northern Virginia, Dumlao found many didn't offer degree programs for non-traditional students.

Given his geographic location, the University of Richmond may appear an odd choice. However, the School of Continuing Studies’ Weekend College program in Fredericksburg could not have been a more perfect fit. Dumlao lived precisely between his work and Weekend College host, Germanna Community College, with both situated about five minutes away in either direction. Combined with the University’s prestige, it was an easy decision for Dumlao to apply to Weekend College.

At first, he discovered the exigency of time management skills as a Weekend College student. Adjusting to a Friday night and Saturday morning class schedule was a challenge. Despite this, Dumlao praises Weekend College for its “understanding” nature and flexibility as he excelled in his coursework, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.

Since Dumlao earned his Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies through Weekend College in 2009, he has translated many skills from the classroom into his current career with the Department of Defense.

“You’d be surprised at how well [Weekend College] enhances critical thinking skills ... even just being able to formulate the right questions and answers,” says Dumlao of his school experiences. “These kinds of skills are invaluable lessons that not only I can apply in my workplace, but also that students can take anywhere.”

Dumlao is continuing his educational journey. He is currently enrolled at George Mason’s School of Law and plans to graduate in 2013.

Rather than pursuing an eventual career in law, Dumlao has reached a point in life at which he’s “not here to start a new career; I just really enjoy taking classes for my own personal goals.”

Looking back on his academic career, he would probably repeat the experience exactly as it unfolded. Though the adjustment to “school life” initially presented some challenges, one of the most important lessons Dumlao has learned through his Weekend College experience is the need to adapt to unfamiliar academic expectations.

“Things that seem difficult aren’t actually difficult ... you just need to get used to it,” says Dumlao. “Through practice, you realize these things are not actually that tough.”

From jumping out of a plane during a search and rescue mission to tackling a difficult problem during a Weekend College class, Dumlao’s willingness to adapt has allowed him to overcome each challenge he encounters.