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Ph.D. Alum Applies a Scholar's Mind to Patriotic Service

April 20, 2012


When Trevor Albertson (’09) started as the California deputy secretary for veterans services last summer, his longtime focus on higher education came in handy right away.

Considering his department’s goal to help veterans achieve stability, he quickly saw that higher education was the key to the jobs that would underpin that life.

“We set about creating a one-step process to take veterans from the military to community college,” Albertson said. “We signed a memorandum of understanding with the community colleges in October and are now building the program we set out to build. It harks back to the years I spent as a graduate student and the convictions I gained about higher education and what’s available there.”

That’s just one example of how Albertson’s Ph.D. in World Cultures from UC Merced has benefited his career so far.

In his dissertation on U.S. nuclear policy from 1945 to 1957, he gained practice analyzing multiple complex data sets. He then put that skill to work as an intelligence officer for the U.S. Air Force after his 2009 graduation and continues to use it to serve California’s veterans.

UC Merced professors were instrumental in his intellectual development, Albertson said.

“My advisor, Gregg Herken, was phenomenal to work with on every level, from personal to professional. He helped me find my way and voice as a scholar,” he said. “I also got a great deal from the Readings Courses I had with Dr. Malloy, they were a key to my developing a more solid understanding of my field.”

Albertson also credited his committee — professors Ruth Mostern, Robin DeLugan and Christopher Viney — as well as his supportive wife, Katie.

While at UC Merced, Albertson won a fellowship from the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, or IGCC. In addition to supporting his research, the fellowship allowed him to attend IGCC Boot Camp at UC San Diego — a monthlong summit of scientists, policy makers, writers and scholars. It showed him there were paths other than academia for a researcher with doctoral training.

“Obviously, I’ve taken that other path,” he said. “There’s a use for that level of scholarship in other fields, and you can be highly impactful as a result.”

He hopes to return to academia someday. But for now, in addition to his state-appointed job and his commitments as a husband and father, Albertson continues to make an impact in the Air Force Reserve.

“There’s a verse in the Bible, and President Kennedy later echoed the same sentiment, that, ‘For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required,’” Albertson said. “I guess I’m trying to remember that.”

Albertson urged UC Merced students to press on and achieve their goals.

“Focus. Finish. Get out there and do something with it,” Albertson said. “The Ph.D. was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. It will frustrate you and break you down. But what you walk away with from that experience is useful in so many ways.

“And it does get respect,” he continued. “The UC Ph.D. is definitely recognized. I would recommend it to anyone with the desire and preparation for it. UC Merced offers a great opportunity, great faculty and people, and a great location. Take advantage of what’s there for you.”