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Lisa Cowboy: Teaching Multiple Perspectives at the Sergeants Major Academy

Lisa Cowboy, ’21SPS, is a student in the Executive Master of Science in Strategic Communication program, which is designed to elevate the skills and knowledge base of experienced communication professionals and for those in leadership positions across a wide range of industries. She discusses what she has learned in the Army and at Columbia, and how the flexible curriculum helps her balance motherhood, her career and her education. 

What led you to join the Army? What have you learned from your experience serving in the armed forces?

From an early age, I wanted to serve in the armed forces. I am an American Indian and a member of the Navajo tribe. Growing up on the Navajo Nation, it was common to see Navajo Code Talkers in the community. The Code Talkers used the Navajo language to develop a code that played a pivotal role in World War II. The actions of these Navajo heroes inspired me to be a soldier. I am the first woman in my family to serve in the United States Army.  

Being a soldier is a humbling experience. With more than 23 years of active duty service, the experience of leadership in multiple domains, and the camaraderie of dynamic teams attest to the Chief of the Staff of the Army and the Sergeant Major of the Army’s message, People First, Winning Matters. Take care of the soldiers and their families, and the mission will take care of itself. It is my honor to continue to serve in an organization that continuously improves the leader development and selection process and makes inclusion, diversity, and equality top priorities.

The Code Talkers used the Navajo language to develop a code that played a pivotal role in World War II. The actions of these Navajo heroes inspired me to be a soldier. I am the first woman in my family to serve in the United States Army.

— Lisa Cowboy, ’21SPS, Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication

Why did you choose the Strategic Communication program at Columbia?

I chose the Executive Master of Science in Strategic Communication program to leverage my leadership skills to improve my overall impact at the Sergeants Major Academy. The program enables me to deliver instruction from multiple perspectives to future senior leaders of the various branches of our armed forces and service members of our global partners. Additionally, the 16-month curriculum allows me to be a full-time professional while being a full-time student, spouse, and mother.  

Tell us about your role as an Instructor in the Department of Command Leadership.

As an instructor in the Department of Command Leadership, my role is to deliver a 150-hour curriculum that enhances critical and creative thinking, focusing on the senior leader’s required attributes and competencies at the operational and strategic levels. In addition to ethics, the courses help leaders understand how biases play a role in the decision-making process. The Department of Command Leadership is one of five departments in the Sergeants Major Academy that prepares senior leaders for their leadership responsibilities in supporting the organization’s overall vision and mission. 

What advice do you have for veterans studying at Columbia?

I commend each veteran studying at Columbia for taking on the challenge in their respective studies. My advice for continued success is to form support groups—family, friends, and colleagues. I owe my sanity to husband and son, my Columbia cohort, and the Department of Command Leadership team members.

Learn more about the Executive M.S. in Strategic Communication.