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Tom Kerr is a first-year PhD candidate in the Political Science department. He served eight years on Active Duty in the Navy. During his first four years he was a Surface Warfare Officer serving as the Strike Warfare Officer on USS Anzio (CG-68) and the N3-A at Riverine Squadron Three. He finished his Active Duty service as an Intelligence Analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence focusing on maritime threats posed by terrorist organizations.

1. What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed in transitioning from military life to civilian life?

The biggest difference I have noticed is the level of oversight that I have to deal with. It is refreshing to be able to work on a project without having to continually deal with providing updates to superiors. 

  1. What is something you wish you had known before moving here?

I wish I would have known about all the programs available to grad students, and for those who are military-affiliated in particular. There is such a wealth of resources here that I did not take advantage of initially which caused me to expend a lot of time and energy researching on my own. 

  1. What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in grad school?

My military service has helped prepare me for grad school in two main ways. First, time management and the ability to prioritize has been pivotal. Second, I believe that the real-world experiences and knowledge that I gained from my time in the Navy provides me with a unique perspective that I would not have gained if I went to grad school straight from undergrad.

  1. What made you choose UNC/NC when deciding on a program/place to study?

I chose UNC primarily due to my program’s strength; we have one of the best Political Science departments in the country, especially for a public university. Individual faculty also played a role. We have several outstanding professors, both inside the Political Science department and in other departments, who study my intended research area, which is suicide terrorism.

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