Brigitte Mikula's passion for education redefines mission complete
The Francis X. Deignan Center at Minot Air Force Base is a nondescript brick building on a road aptly named Missile Avenue. In Room 220, tucked among "college row," you'll find the Minot State University Extended Learning Office and Brigitte E. Mikula, program coordinator for MSU at MAFB. In spite of the location, nondescript will never define Mikula.
Mikula grew up in Edmundston, New Brunswick, a few miles from the Maine border. Although French is her native tongue, living close to the U.S. enabled Mikula to speak fluent English.
After earning a bachelor's degree in education, Mikula married a young airman stationed at Loring AFB, and embarked on a military adventure that took them to Maine, Germany, Washington D.C., and Minot. After 19 years in North Dakota, Minot is home for the Mikulas.
"When my husband retired from the Air Force in 2006, we were the ones in the minivan, three kids and a dog, taking pictures of the 'Why Not Minot' sign, thinking we'd never see it again," Mikula remembered. "But two months later we were back."
Before joining MSU, Mikula spent eight years with the Air Force advising airmen on the finer details of completing their Community College of the Air Force (associate) degree. Before that, she was a one-person education office in Germany. Although placement tests, class schedules and navigating paperwork is an important part of advising, Mikula is highly sensitive to the additional challenges airmen face in obtaining a degree. She sees her role as helping meet their needs.
"In active duty, the job comes first, often with difficult hours, then taking care of family. But in being able to pursue their educational dream, I wonder 'what can we (MSU) do?' Minot Air Force Base students are a different kind of student with work schedules that don't follow regular class schedules," Mikula said. "The only way to establish relationships is to get out of the office, talk to people, figure out their needs and provide the service."
Service is a mantra that transcends into Mikula's personal life. She teaches Sunday school, is a team mom with the Magic City Figure Skating Club and teaches Junior Achievement through the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I like giving back. For the past 28 years, the military has been my life. I know education is a well-earned benefit and should be taken advantage of. Minot State is a military friendly school; the least I can do is ask, 'What can MSU do for you?' It is an honor for me to be a small part of someone's bigger dream."
Brigitte and her husband, Dennis, have three children. Dennis Jr. and Danielle attend MSU, Dominique is a student at Minot High School.