USF Sarasota-Manatee IT student puts education to good use in the Air Force

When Sean Abene graduated from high school in 2002, he set his sights on the Army, hoping that enlisting would help him be able to afford college.

Now, as he graduates with 247 fellow seniors from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee on Sunday, December 12, he has combined his educational experience with his military experience to earn himself a full time career in Information Technology at a company in Sarasota.

Sean enlisted in the military right out of high school and spent three and a half years in the Army, a year and a half of which he spent serving in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.   He then transferred to the Air Force National Guard, where he has served for five years.

As a lead Technical Sergeant, Sean leads a group that sets up and maintains communications and networks for special operations teams.  He credits his experiences at USF Sarasota-Manatee and his internship for the high tech knowledge needed to attain the ranking of Tech Sergeant, which is the second most difficult rank to achieve in the Air Force and is the most difficult promotion most career Air Force members achieve.

“Having a degree from a respected university like USF Sarasota-Manatee is really advantageous in the Air Force,” he said.  “They want to see that you are a critical thinker, are knowledgeable in your area of expertise, and that you are advancing yourself through education.  It’s a great way to open doors for promotions.”

Sean’s university level education also benefits his military training.

“At USF Sarasota-Manatee we learned a lot about theory, and that comes in handy when you’re in training for situations that may arise,” he said.  “The equipment that I use is all networking, and I can use the knowledge from school to troubleshoot network equipment issues on the job.”

As a National Guard Sergeant, Sean has done one tour to Afghanistan and has been called for duty when hurricanes have hit Florida and Mississippi.  Balancing his military service with his schooling and internship hasn’t been easy, but Sean credits flexible professors, excellent advisors, and a great financial aid department with helping him navigate the process smoothly.

“My biggest challenge has been trying to balance everything, which is a lot like the challenge that most non-traditional students face,” he said.  “I haven’t had the ‘normal’ college experience, but my professors have always been willing to work with me when I’ve had military obligations.  I’ve never had to withdraw from any classes because of that.”

Sean has reenlisted for three more years in the Air Force and would like to return to active duty, but for now he is enjoying his “civilian job” as a System’s Administrator at Progressive Employer Services in Sarasota – a position for which he can also thank USF Sarasota-Manatee.

“I took a class that required an internship, and Toni Ripo in Career Services at USF Sarasota-Manatee told me about the position with Progressive,” he said.  “After the class and internship were over, Progressive offered to hire me full time.  It’s great that USFSM offers that service, it’s not easy to find a job right now and I have one before I even graduate.”

With that hurdle overcome, Sean looks forward to the commencement ceremony on December 12.

“I’ve had a great experience at USF Sarasota-Manatee and would recommend it to anyone,” he said.  “They’ve made it really easy for me to get this far.”

The USF Sarasota-Manatee Commencement Ceremony will be held on December 12 at the Manatee Civic and Convention Center in Palmetto at 2:00 p.m.  For more information about the ceremony, please contact Michael Ayres at (941) 359-4632.