Seattle Army Veteran Graduates in Gainesville as UF Online Ranks Best Online Bachelor’s Program for Veterans

Stephanie Gamboa Student Story

Stephanie Gamboa is a 32-year-old Army veteran who traveled to the University of Florida from her home in Seattle to celebrate earning her bachelor’s degree in advertising. After changing her major three times, she credits her previous military experience with helping her set professional goals while completing her degree from the recently best-ranked online degree program for veterans by U.S. News & World Report.

“I was in college for about seven years, I’ve changed my major three times, but the military was something I really needed. It made me more goal-oriented, and it made me take initiative to do more things for myself. I don’t think I would’ve even come close to graduating had I not enlisted.”


Stephanie first acknowledged her creative side after studying graphic design in high school. “I went to a technical school and I’ve done art my whole life. I needed to be able to do something practical with art. I wanted to study art, but I didn’t know what specifically,” said Stephanie. She then pursued her undergraduate degree by enrolling in an online art university.

Seeking discipline and direction, Stephanie paused her degree and decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. She served four years before being deployed to Afghanistan for a year. “I love to learn, and I had a newfound passion to really just get out and learn. So I went back to school, and that’s when I really started getting into advertising. I was listening to my family and also listening to what I wanted,” she explained. This would lead Stephanie to the advertising program at UF.

“I got out of the military and advertising was my thing. Advertising isn’t offered online everywhere, but I knew that UF was a great school and that I would get a quality education there. I want to be able to work with every aspect of a campaign. I want to do strategy, but I feel like I’ve shifted from creative in that sense.”


Stephanie was so impressed by UF’s advertising program that she made it her sole choice after deciding to complete her bachelor’s degree. As she described her decision, “I put all of my eggs into one basket and only applied to UF, and got in! Advertising is fun. It’s exciting, and who doesn’t love a good creative commercial?”

U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of online degree programs for veterans takes measurements of affordability, accessibility, and reputation into account. Ranked institutions are required to have GI Bill certification and 20% of their overall ranking is determined by whether Yellow Ribbon funding is made available to all eligible students for which the GI Bill does not cover full tuition. UF’s core values aligned with U.S News & World Report’s factors as UF Online was ranked the best online bachelor’s program for veterans in 2023.

Stephanie credited advertising faculty member Bob Hughes for helping solidify her career goals. “Between all of the information and realizing a full campaign strategy, I was like this is what I want to do. This is it. He would give me amazing feedback, which really helped solidify the direction I wanted to go in,” said Stephanie.

“I wanted to go to a school where I could really figure out what I wanted to do, so that’s why I chose advertising at UF. It’s also the same online as it is in person. The courses and professors are the same. There are so many benefits to UF Online because even not living in Florida, I still had the same resources available to me.”


UF Online’s accessibility allowed Stephanie to finish her degree from her home in Seattle, Washington, and she was joined by her family and fiance as they visited the Sunshine State for her commencement ceremony held on UF’s main campus in Gainesville.

For those who are interested in online degree programs but unsure of where to start, Stephanie suggests “Don’t be afraid to reach out to a school and inquire for yourself. Don’t wait for things to be told to you. Don’t be intimidated by online. You can work your whole life around earning an online education. You can really tailor it to be a customized experience.”

The University of Florida wishes Stephanie all the best in her future endeavors in Seattle, and wherever else life may take her! Dedicated students like Stephanie allow programs like UF Online to continue to grow and further extend the reach of the Gator Nation.


Turn your creative ideas into tangible campaigns with a UF degree in Advertising: Persuasive Messaging. With courses like strategy, branding, and copy & visualization, students gain a broad sense of the creative, technical, and psychological aspects of branding and marketing within advertising. Taught by faculty in the top-ranked College of Journalism and Communications, UF Online’s Advertising program makes our graduates viable candidates for a wide variety of careers ranging from business to government agencies. To learn more about UF Online’s Advertising program, visit the degree page or attend an upcoming virtual information session.