The Navy veteran, father, student, marathoner, roller skater, and aspiring lawyer shares how he makes every moment count.

CSU Global student Chris Swinton’s story begins in New York’s boroughs—Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx. Growing up in a working-class family, his mother encouraged him to stay busy by participating in church activities such as skating and bowling. From there, Swinton started performing maintenance and small construction jobs—a skillset that would later prove useful—on the church, which eventually led him to renovating buildings all over New York City. 

Working in the boroughs inspired Swinton to serve his community. For nearly four years, Swinton was a member of the NYC Homeless Services Police Department and was assigned to shelters for the unhoused. “It was a different experience, dealing with people from all backgrounds,” he shared. “I liked helping people.” 

When it was time to move on, Swinton had his sights set on joining the Navy. In 1999, he embarked on his first of five deployments, quickly increasing his rank by always saying 'yes' to the jobs that no one else wanted. He was assigned to a construction battalion that took him around the world to the Bahamas, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan, and Somalia.

After his final deployment—and more than 21 years in the Navy—Swinton retired as a Chief Petty Officer and returned home to his relieved family. During his time in the military, Swinton relocated to California, married, and had two sons. He now works as a civilian contractor at the Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), monitoring equipment that helps support the troops. 

“I started seeking a degree after I came back from Afghanistan when I realized that I had a lot of knowledge, but I didn't have what the corporate world was requiring in terms of skills, certifications, or licensing,” he said. “I received two associate’s degrees—one in political science and one in legal studies—before taking a break.” Due to a reorganization at the naval base, Swinton became involved with supply chain and project oversight, which inspired him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in project management

While the restructuring took place, Swinton decided to take a second job. He worked at NBVC from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., slept for a few hours, and worked at Amazon from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. His wife thought he would last two weeks on such a grueling schedule. He did it for 11 months. Amazon—a CSU Global employer partner—extends educational benefits to its employees. Having used his military tuition credits for his associate's degrees, Swinton was thrilled to take advantage of Amazon's educational perk. He was given a list of schools and started his research. "I made sure that CSU Global was regionally accredited, that they would accept a significant amount of credits from my previous colleges and military experience," he shared. 

Now on his fifth course, Swinton is almost halfway to his bachelor’s degree. While he’s no longer working two jobs, he isn’t one to stay idle. An avid roller skater, he enjoys bringing his son to the rink. “When we skate as father and son, I think he’s happy in that moment. He’s glad I’m home and not in the Navy anymore,” said Swinton. 

Skating is just one of many pastimes. Swinton recently completed a half marathon, enjoys golfing, has started working on a fiction book, and often listens to motivational speakers on YouTube. Because CSU Global classes are asynchronous, Swinton is able to build the assignments into his schedule—not the other way around. 

Swinton’s end goal is to go into contract law. He admits, “I know I’m 54 years old and want to go into law, right?” But Swinton has a solid foundation between his associate’s degrees, soon-to-be bachelor’s in project management, and real-world experience through a career spent reading and disseminating contracts. Not only that, Swinton’s positive attitude makes him believe anything is possible. “What I try to tell young people is that we always look up at people like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, or those who have climbed Mount Everest,” he shares. “But we could be the same. There’s no difference between us and them, except for that they pushed beyond and went into an area that was uncomfortable.” 

His final advice for those looking to grow? To pursue higher education. “Even if you run into stumbling blocks—especially us veterans—try to use the experience as a stepping stone. In the military, we were pushed to keep going. Take that same focus, that same energy, and put it towards education. We can achieve, we can do it.”