For two years, 1st Lt. Savanna Clendining G’22 has risen early in the morning to attend her online classes for the Newhouse School of Public Communication’s master’s program while stationed in Vicenza, Italy, serving the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne). She has attended class on a mountainside in Slovenia and from a cliff in the Dolomite Mountains in northern Italy. Doing coursework by flashlight inside of a darkened tent hasn’t stopped Clendining from working toward her graduate degree, and neither has the coronavirus.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Clendining enlisted in the New York National Guard at age 17. She worked as a public affairs specialist and attended the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. There she learned basic broadcast journalism skills, like writing news scripts for television and how to edit video.
In 2013, Clendining enrolled at Le Moyne College and majored in communications. In her sophomore year, she participated in Le Moyne College’s partnership with Syracuse University and became an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadet. “Based on my experience, I think Syracuse University has one of the best ROTC programs in the country,” Clendining says. “The skills that I learned in the Stalwart Battalion at Syracuse University set me up for success.”
As a cadet, Clendining earned a leadership opportunity acting as the student battalion executive officer. “I use some of that experience in order to guide my soldiers in the right direction,” she says.
In 2017, she graduated from Le Moyne with a bachelor's degree and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Already familiar with Syracuse University through her ROTC military science classes, Clendining jumped at the chance to earn a master’s online as soon as she arrived in Italy. “The overarching mentality at Syracuse University is to provide full support, not only for veterans, but those of us who are actively serving,” she says.
Clendining says Syracuse University’s admissions counselors have been supportive, and her student success coordinator, Thea Cazeau, has been an incredible resource. “Anytime my responsibilities became a challenge, I've reached out to her and she's been helpful every step of the way.”
She now serves as a medical operations officer in Italy, and her experience in the medical field has mostly been learned on the job. So far, no one in the 173rd has tested positive for COVID-19. “We've tested over 50 people and all of those tests have come back negative, which is incredible because we're in the middle of where the infection rate is pretty bad,” Clendining says.
Her unit stands ready to assist local hospitals. “We've been looking at ways to turn an outpatient clinic into a hospital in the event local hospitals were at capacity,” she says. “Fortunately, we haven’t hit that point.”
Clendining’s studies in the Newhouse Communications@Syracuse program have already led to practical skills. “When the coronavirus first spiked in Italy, I was writing updates and posting them on Facebook to my family and friends,” she says. “This program has taught me how to be concise while making sure that the important information is in the final result.” While the demands of active duty, a worldwide health crisis, and early mornings have not made it easy, Clendining is dedicated to accomplishing her goal. “Slowly but surely, I will achieve this master's degree.”