It’s not every day that your mother hoods you for graduation, but that is what Gustav A. Otto will experience at national commencement on October 6, 2018 when Gus graduates with a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a major in Ethical & Creative Leadership. The Ph.D. candidate’s mother, Dr. Sharon E. Trekell, just happens to be a Union Ph.D. alumna.

Both were attracted to Union for its interdisciplinary program and commitment to social justice.

“Mom suggested that I look at Union because I was having little success in finding what I wanted in a graduate program,” said Gus, former professor of practice at National Defense University, Distinguished Chair for Defense Intelligence at Army University, and adjunct for the National Intelligence University. After retiring from the United States Air Force Reserves, in consultation with his wife, he knew it was time to pursue his Ph.D. “I was also impressed with the focus on social justice. I always say, I came to Union for the curriculum, but stayed for the culture of social justice.”

Gus’s mother, Dr. Trekell, a professor of psychology, and founder and director of Inner Well Institute, echoes that sentiment. “Gus and I share the quest to improve lives. I enjoyed the diversity and background of my committee. I also remember the deep and profound learning I experienced at Union.”
Sharon has been healing society for 50 years. Gus is just starting that path. “My journey is just beginning. I hope I can be a paradigm of healing through the understanding of diversity and equality,” said Gus. “I see my mom in that trail.”

Their advice to Union students is to follow their passion and don’t procrastinate. Get it done!

What will it be like for mother to watch her son graduate? “The thrill of a lifetime. I have always been incredibly proud of Gus as a son and a scholar. I don’t think I will be able to keep from crying.”

Gus says he will cry. “Commencement is a cry worthy event.”

Follow your passion towards lifelong learning!