What is your academic background?
I have an associate’s degree in liberal arts from Windward Community College, a bachelor’s degree in anthropology with a focus on social and cultural anthropology, Polynesian anthropology, and body, sex and food. I’m currently working on my master’s degree in professional studies with a concentration in higher education administration.
What is your military background?
I did 10 years in the Air Force reserves as a medic and aeromedical evacuation, and then I went into the Army and trained as a respiratory therapist and I have seven years’ active duty Army.
What are you trying to accomplish as Veteran’s Services Coordinator?
I’m hoping to help people. A lot of the military people I see going to college are first-generation college people – they joined for pretty much the same reasons that I did. That college was kind of out of their reach but they still wanted something. They got job skills in the military, and now they’re ready to go to college. I try to help them with that path, help to translate some of the policies for them. At the same time, I see it as a way to get to know the veteran population, and I’m hoping to make things a little bit better. I see that there are communication difficulties. While student veterans coming in have trouble understanding the lingo of the academic world, I also feel that faculty and staff have a hard time understanding the veteran. So I’m hoping to do Green Zone training at some point in the future, where I can help faculty and staff to better serve and better understand the veteran students coming in.
What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give to student veterans, especially?
Go to the GI Bill website, and really look at what the rules are. There’s so much word-of-mouth. Even the out-processing briefings don’t necessarily always give the full information … I spend a lot of time debunking myths that they’ve heard. They walk away halfway convinced, halfway unsure if they should listen to their friends still. I think that’s common across the board, not just at FSU. I see that on the VA Facebook page. Somebody says, “Hey, I have this problem,” and everybody’s chiming in, and half of them are not even close to right. I would just say, “Go to the source. Go to the VA website for the GI Bill and read that.”
Do you feel that your experience in the military has helped you as a student?
Military schools, everything’s fast and furious, you have to pack it all in. When you first go to a civilian college, it seems like you have all the time in the world. … When I first started school I went more with my military education side and [was] missing deadlines. When I started looking at it more like my assignments were my patients, and I had to take care of all of them at a certain point in time, it came together much better.
What are some of the challenges student veterans face?
They typically have families they’re supporting. They’ve got bills. They’ve got a whole life. If they look at their classmates, they’ve lived a lot more life than their classmates, so they have much more going on. It’s difficult when they have assignments due and life happens. There’s a baby up all night and they’ve got a test in the morning – that sort of thing. Many of them are coming back with wounds – either seen or unseen – from combat, and from other experiences in the military which also complicates learning for them.
What are some of the strength that student veterans exhibit?
Perseverance. They don’t give up. They’re tough, they struggle. They just don’t quit, they keep going.
Do you think FSU is a good or a bad campus for veterans?
I think it’s a good campus. The staff here really care a lot. That was one of things that attracted me to come here to work – how student-centered everybody was. There is good communication here. I feel like they really embrace the student culture and they really embrace the student veterans here. … There’s so many connections here. Part of my duties in this position is that I [have a seat on] the Framingham Veterans Council. That gives me a lot of connections to the outer veterans community as well. They’re always asking, “What can we do to help you?” … Massachusetts has a lot of veterans-centered programs. To me, the connections. This is definitely the most veteran-friendly place I’ve been.