Joel Spangenberg is an important man. The 2006 Administrative Leadership graduate serves as one of the top executives in the US Selective Service System (SSS), a federal agency whose primary mission is to be ready to provide manpower to the Department of Defense in the event of a national emergency.
“My role is an exciting one,” he said. “It includes overseeing the day-to-day operations of SSS; advising the agency director on policy, operational, and administrative issues; and leading its human resources, contracting and logistics functions.”
He also leads cross-functional teams to improve their readiness to respond to national emergencies and enhance security programs, and he works with states on legislative issues.
His career in defense began long before Spangenberg enrolled in the MAAL program at the College of Liberal Studies. He was embarking on his second-division officer tour when he learned about the degree, after serving aboard a destroyer and completing the Navy Nuclear Power Program. The curriculum caught his attention immediately, with courses focused on ethics and decision making and an interdisciplinary approach that matched his professional background.
“This degree was a good fit for where I was in my career,” he explained. “In this role, I knew that I would have greater management responsibilities, and this degree would allow me to quickly apply my new knowledge.”
“A leader should find ways to put that knowledge to use.”
The road to graduation wasn’t an easy one, but Spangenberg was determined.
“I like to see results, and working on a degree was no exception. I kept myself organized and focused on small accomplishments every day.”
As he was beginning to pursue his CLS degree, the USS Abraham Lincoln was preparing to leave the shipyards in Bremerton, Washington, to begin preparations for deployment. At this time, he was also working toward his qualification as propulsion plant watch officer and taking charge of a division. He found time in the evenings to study, while they were in port.
“It was often challenging to find time to focus,” he said. “I was either standing watch, preparing to stand watch, overseeing my division, participating in a ship-wide damage control drill, preparing for an inspection, or trying to figure out how I was going to get some sleep. Later on, I had the added challenge of working on CLS coursework while earning my certification as a Navy Nuclear Engineering Officer.”
Spangenberg was no stranger to hard work. He has earned three master’s degrees – in engineering management, national security and strategic studies and administrative leadership – throughout the span of his career. His experience as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy deepened his interest in learning about leadership in particular and showed him that simply gaining theoretical knowledge was not enough. “A leader should find ways to put that knowledge to use.”
His MAAL taught him more about his greatest assets: his grit and desire to learn. He has since used the insights gained at CLS to become a more effective leader on a large scale. The program’s emphasis on ethical thinking and decision making was of particular importance in obtaining this goal.
“As one takes on more responsibility, these issues take on greater prominence. This is particularly the case in government, where citizens put their trust in executives to administer its various programs and be excellent stewards of the nation’s resources.”
Spangenberg knew that higher education would prepare him to take on the challenge.
“Through the bad days and the good, I was able to stay focused on my goal of earning the CLS degree,” he said. “I was very proud to have been able to complete my degree while taking on a number of other challenges. The flexibility offered by the program made this possible, and is undoubtedly making it possible for other CLS students to meet both their career and academic goals.”