Air Force Veteran Graduates USC Bovard College On Mission To Advance Health Care Access

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Brian Fleenor, a graduate of the online MS in Project Management program, was awarded USC’s Order of Arête, honoring his exceptional contributions to the community and university.

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USC Bovard College graduate Brian Fleenor stands at the Long Beach VAMC with fellow veteran and mentor Anthony D. Brown, who is also a project manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The two work on Project 405, which includes the construction of a Community Living Center for veterans. Photo: Brian Fleenor

The Greek term Arête means virtue or excellence in attaining one’s utmost human potential — which is clearly no small task.

Thus, it’s a notable honor for someone to be awarded an Order of Arête at USC, as the award signals a student has shown exemplary leadership skills and made a significant impact on the university and the world beyond it.

It’s the highest accolade granted to graduate students finishing their time at USC, and this year, one was given to Brian Fleenor, who graduated from the USC Bovard College online Master of Science in Project Management program.

Of course, if you ask Fleenor why he received the award, he displays sincere humility about his accomplishments.

“I’m so grateful for the consideration and to ultimately be the recipient,” he told USC Online. “I believe my diligence played a part in it … I adjusted my life to give USC my attention because [the university] gave me an opportunity, and therefore I wanted to show that I was more than willing and eager to be here.”

When pressed why else he may have been rewarded with an Order of Arête, Fleenor guessed it had something to do with his immersion in the MSPM program.

“I wanted to be vocal during my classes and share my experiences. Above all else, I hope that the way I presented myself gave people an idea of who Brian Fleenor is, what I’m willing to offer and what I can do for them,” he said.

While Fleenor has distinguished himself as a diligent worker who places an emphasis on integrity and helping others, his history of serving his country is even more award-worthy.

A third-generation veteran (his father was in the U.S. Army for 33 years, and his grandfather fought in World War II), Fleenor spent 12 years in the Air Force. When he was honorably discharged, service remained of the greatest importance to him, and he went on to work in the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs as a police officer.

“I can’t say enough good things about USC. It’s been truly incomparable.”

Eventually, Fleenor’s work ethic and compassion caught the eye of his superiors, and he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Police. It was at this level of his career that his interest in project management manifested.

“[As Deputy Chief of Police], you’re dealing with various aspects of the department, whether it’s managing the resources or assisting the department with training. And with that administration-type position, you’re also a leader,” he explained. “That’s when I really discovered that project management was, in fact, a discipline and career field. It was another way that I could help our nation’s veterans by involving myself with projects that would build better lives for them.”

Although Fleenor was passionate about project management and its potential to make a lasting impact on his community, he wanted to further his education in the field through graduate school, despite having already taken multiple federal government-sponsored PM courses.

“I simply desired the knowledge to have the ability to provide the best support to address and develop current and future projects that will provide veterans, their families, visitors and employees with a positive environment and necessary resources so they can receive the clinical care and support they need,” he explained.

His search for a master’s program, however, ended shortly after coming across Bovard College. Aside from USC’s leading reputation, Fleenor said he “felt confident” that USC was the “ideal university” for accomplishing his goals.

“Knowing that such a prestigious university developed a program for project management confirmed and assured me that I’d be receiving the best education and knowledge to provide for our nation’s veterans and the community at large,” he said.

Key pillars of the online MSPM program are cultivating communication and negotiation skills, better understanding workplace challenges and opportunities, and most importantly, becoming effective leaders. While Fleenor has already proven himself to be an exceptional leader, he insists the program fostered his continued growth as a working professional.

“What I enjoyed about USC was the experience I had with people — my brilliant cohort, my brilliant professors, my brilliant advisers and support staff,” he said. “This team of people assisted with helping me discover new directions and better equipped me with how to handle and manage work and school … I believe in order to respond to the challenges ahead, I’m in a much better place. I now have a better chance at being successful in my position.”

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Fleenor and Brown survey the progress of the Community Living Center, which will allow veterans to receive continuous care with the newest technology and resources in a “home-like” setting. Photo: Brian Fleenor

Today, Fleenor serves as a project manager at the Tibor Rubin-Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), where he coordinates the construction and renovation of facilities and clinics for veterans and their families. Whether he is working to increase patient capacity or improve access to health care, Fleenor says his overall duty “drives home the Department of Veterans Affairs mission.”

During his second year at VAMC — which coincided with the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and his enrollment at USC — Fleenor volunteered his PM skills to establish the Greater Los Angeles VAMC Intensive Care Unit. He also supported a mass civilian vaccination site in his community.

It’s evident that Fleenor believes in seizing the opportunities he’s been given to create a better world around him. This project manager is the true embodiment of Arête: finding virtue and excellence by living up to one’s utmost potential.

Fleenor insists, however, that some of the praise for any good he’s achieved throughout his time at Bovard College can be given back to the university itself.

“I can’t say enough good things about USC,” he concluded. “It’s been truly incomparable.”

This article originally appeared on USC Online.

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