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New student veterans reflect on military experience

09/03/15 - BOSTON, MA. - President Joseph E. Aoun met with new student veterans during orientation in Curry Student Center room 318 at Northeastern University on September 3, 2015. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

More than two dozen new student veterans began the next phase of their lives on Thursday at Northeastern University, participating in a day­long series of work­shops, infor­ma­tion ses­sions, and campus tours.

They got the lowdown on their edu­ca­tion ben­e­fits; met with the leaders of Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion; and then visited the university’s Veterans Memorial.

During a short break in the middle of the day, a few students paused to reflect on their military experience and discuss their future aspirations.

  • Austin Grainey, SSH’19, served in the Army from 2010 to 2013. He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and then deployed to Afghanistan, where he worked as a cavalry scout and team leader. A political science major, he is considering a career in constitutional law.
  • Angel Figueroa, SSH’19, served in the Army from 2009 to 2013. He spent the majority of his military tenure stationed in Japan and Afghanistan, where he worked as a supply administration chief. A combined major in criminal justice and psychology, he sees his future in federal law enforcement.
  • Dillon Burks, DMSB’19, served in the Marine Corps from 2010 to 2015, working stateside in an administrative role. A business major, he’s set his sights on earning his MBA.

All of them bring a unique global per­spec­tive to the campus com­mu­nity, one honed by living and working around the world. “Living in an underdeveloped nation with people who come from an entirely different culture is a very eye-opening experience,” said Grainey, a Massachusetts native. “It can make you a very valuable member of an academic community.”

One student veteran wears a t-shirt promoting the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering injured veterans and their families.

One student veteran wore a T-shirt promoting the Wounded Warriors Project, a nonprofit organization aimed at empowering injured veterans and their families.

Andy McCarty, the director of vet­eran and mil­i­tary ser­vices at North­eastern, noted that the maturity and on-the-job leadership skills of incoming student veterans give them a leg up on typical first-year college students. “The traditional 18-year-old student is fresh out of high school, just learning how to take responsibility for the first time,” said McCarty, an Air Force veteran himself. “But veterans don’t have to go through that process, they don’t have that learning curve. They have real-world experience, they’ve trained their peers.”

Grainey, for his part, transferred from a state school to join Northeastern’s inspired community of student veterans. “It seems like student veterans at Northeastern are much more empowered here and are more interested in expressing their leadership abilities,” he said.

The majority of the incoming student veterans—Grainey, Burks, and Figueroa included—will par­tic­i­pate in the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, which oper­ates in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Vet­erans Affairs and cur­rently pro­vides schol­ar­ships to more than 450 North­eastern stu­dents who have served in the post-​​​​9/​​11 era. In 2009, the uni­ver­sity pledged $2 mil­lion to help vet­erans earn a col­lege edu­ca­tion through the pro­gram, which offers stu­dents access to bachelor’s, master’s, doc­toral, and law degrees.

09/03/15 - BOSTON, MA. - New student veterans stop by the Veterans Memorial during their orientation tour at Northeastern University on September 3, 2015. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

As part of their campus tour, new student veterans stop visited Northeastern’s Veterans Memorial.

Burks praised Northeastern for participating in the program, saying that it’s the “only reason why I can attend this great school.” He’s looking forward to the start of the fall semester, with a particular interest in exchanging ideas and global perspectives with students and professors alike. A sports fan from Texas, he’s also eager to cheer on the Huskies. “I’m excited to see the sports here,” he said, “especially the men’s hockey team.”

In addi­tion to the Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, North­eastern offers stu­dent vet­erans myriad on-campus resources as part of its long­standing com­mit­ment to sup­porting ser­vice mem­bers.

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