Ph.D. candidate mentors future military officers at the United States Naval Academy

When Lieutenant Commander Michael W. Major decided he wanted to go back to school to earn his Ph.D., he was drawn to Wayne State University’s commitment to non-traditional students.

Major teaching at the United States Naval Academy.

“The communication program at Wayne State has top notch scholars in their field and is a research-based Ph.D. program that considers part-time students,” Major said. “I was the director of career services at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) when I applied for the program, and I worked full-time at SVSU throughout my coursework.”

Inspired by his time at SVSU helping students craft resumes, Major’s dissertation explores how and why resume screeners extend interview offers to particular candidates.

“In career services, we would talk about how to write a resume and what employers wanted to see. Most of the research done on resume screening is observational and doesn’t tie to any sort of theoretical explanation.”

He aims to offer that theoretical explanation in his dissertation and explains how in this quick pitch on YouTube, inspired by the YouTube channel Screen Rant’s mock pitch meetings on movies and television series.

Major theorizes that if a resume screener thinks they can reduce their uncertainty about a candidate in a way that they can predict the future behaviors or beliefs of the applicant, and those beliefs align with company culture, the more likely that candidate is to be invited to interview.

In 2018, Major received military orders as an faculty member to the United States Naval Academy (USNA) in Maryland. Fortunately, by then, he had completed his coursework and was able to continue his research remotely. He is finishing up his dissertation and plans to defend this May.
Major and his family at the 2020 Navy Women's Basketball Patriot League Tournament one week before lockdown due to the pandemic.

An English instructor for USNA, he teaches plebes in the pre-plebe developmental writing English course sequence and assists midshipmen looking to strengthen their writing skills. Identified by the USNA as the “go-to instructor for struggling writers,” Major was recently awarded the prestigious 2021 Class of 1951 Military Faculty Teaching Excellence Award and the William P. Clements Award, one of the highest honors bestowed upon a military faculty member by the USNA.

“The Clements Award is given annually to a military faculty member whose contributions to the academic, professional, and moral development of midshipmen reflect the highest principles of excellence in education,” reads the USNA website.

The USNA lauded Major’s commitment to his students, how he goes above and beyond to help them hone their critical thinking and communication skills; his “relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to diversity”; and his service as the Officer Representative for the Navy Women’s Basketball team.

Major said he was shocked and honored to receive the competitive award. There is a plaque in the Nimitz Library on the USNA's campus that lists every Clements Award winner, he said.

“My time at the Naval Academy has been short—I mean, it’s only a three-year tour. To know I’ve accomplished something that will always be a part of the official history of the institution is humbling.”

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