A 16-year journey to a degree

Grier and shipmate run across USS Lincoln

Michael Grier’s journey to his master’s degree has been 16 years in the making. 

Michael Grier poses in NAU track uniformWhen he first enrolled at NAU in 2007, he had a lot going for him—he excelled in his civil engineering classes and, as an avid runner, walked on to NAU’s track and field team. Then, his grandmother got sick.  

Grier dropped out of school and moved to Tucson to care for her. After she was put into a nursing home several years later, he enlisted in the Navy as a nuclear electrician’s mate. He was eventually stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln where he studied, trained and worked for 12-16 hours a day. 

“This period in my career challenged me in ways I have never experienced in my life. I learned to truly push myself to my limits physically and mentally. I had to face my social anxieties, fear of failure and academic weakness,” he said. 

USS LincolnAfter two years, his ship was qualified as deployable. By the time of deployment in 2019, Grier was promoted to the position of assistant leading petty officer. 

“Being in a leadership position showed me my true passion is helping people. I pushed myself every day during deployment to help people get their voices heard and ensure that everyone around me was being treated with respect and dignity and getting the most out of themselves. I was following my passion and truly believed I was making a difference in people’s lives.”  

It was during this time that Grier realized his passion for helping people extended past his leadership role—he wanted to make a career out of finding solutions for clean energy in hopes of fighting climate change. After six years in the Navy, and now with a wife and daughter in tow, he returned to NAU’s electrical engineering program to learn more about nuclear fusion and power electronics for renewable energy solutions. In 2022, he was accepted into the accelerated master’s program for electrical engineering and is expected to graduate after the summer 2023 semester.  

Grier (third from left) poses with his NAU team after placing third in the Hydropower Collegiate National Competition.
Grier (third from left) poses with his NAU team after placing third in the Hydropower Collegiate National Competition.

“My parents have always preached the value of education and their parents preached that to them. My grandfather always wanted to get a master’s degree and would have been proud to see me get one,” Grier said. “Also, my father-in-law made me promise to get my degree to be married to his daughter. So, I am making good on that promise.”  

Grier credits his NAU education with fine-tuning the skills he had learned in the military. He has been working as an intern with APS since May 2021 and has gained vital work experience. After graduation, he will join the engineering consulting firm Burns and McDonnell as an assistant electrical engineer. 

“It’s been a 16-year journey, but to finally be graduating is a feeling I cannot put into words. Most of my friends have dropped out of college or graduated decades ago and are shocked that I am still working toward it. However, my father graduated with his bachelor’s degree when he was 40 years old. I still remember going to his ceremony and how proud I was of him.” 

 Now, his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Mia will get to see her dad walk across the stage. 
Grier and family

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Carly Banks | NAU Communications
(928) 523-5582 | carly.banks@nau.edu

NAU Communications