Veterans in the College of Education tell their stories

November 10, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To celebrate veterans and to show gratitude for their service, the College of Education shared stories from men and women in the college's community who have served or are currently serving our country.

Ron Banerjee
Machinists mate second class E5 in the Navy

I am a Penn State graduate student in the Organization Development and Change program in the College of Education. I am also the regional branch manager for VOYA Financial Advisors in State College and specialize in the health, education, and government markets for retirement services.

I am a decorated disabled veteran, serving in the Navy from 1985­–1989. I broke my back in several places and received a medal for heroism for it but was also medically discharged. This was at the tail end of a 12-month officer-training program. Penn State offered me admission after I was honorably discharged and encouraged me to overcome my disability and pursue my educational goals. There were many hardships during that process. It is based on my experiences and overcoming those obstacles that I continue to be an advocate not only for adult learners, but veteran adult learners who have many challenges similar to those I have experienced while pursuing and accomplishing my academic goals.

I chose to do my master’s of professional studies in Organization Development and Change as I believe that there are great applications to this program in my professional and private life.

Jamie Irvin
E-5 sergeant in the Army and Army Reserve

I served in the Army and Army Reserve as an E-5/SGT (retired) from 2000 until I was medically retired in 2009. I am a part-time student in counselor education with an emphasis in clinical mental health counseling in schools and communities. I am also a full-time employee at the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness.

I enrolled in the counselor education program so that I can serve the military community with special interest in assisting veterans as they transition into the civilian world.

I enjoyed being a soldier and wanted to make a career of it. When the decision was made to medically retire me, I was devastated, but I understood the reasoning. My transition out of the military was quite difficult for me. Thankfully, the VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital linked me up with a wonderful individual who was able to help me work through the transition. This experience, along with several others, are why I decided to return to college and pursue a master's degree in counselor education to help others struggling to deal with the transitions that come along with the military lifestyle. My work at the Clearinghouse has helped to broaden my perspective of the military community (beyond that of a soldier) and connect me with evidence-informed decision-making that will also contribute to my success as a counselor.

Matthew Raup
Specialist (E-4) in the Army National Guard

I enlisted last July, so I am almost a year and a half in. I am a technology manager for Penn State Outreach, and I am in my third year of my doctorate in workforce education and development. I joined the National Guard because my whole life revolved around my job and my school, so I felt very selfish and self-focused. The National Guard allowed me to do something to serve my country and community, and was supported by my job and my education.

Carl Ohlson
Lieutenant colonel (retired) in the Army

I enlisted in 1981, entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1983, was commissioned as an infantry officer in 1987 and began my career as an officer in the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum. I served continuously until my retirement on March 1, 2014. Throughout my career, I served in a variety of jobs and units in the Infantry, spent a year with the U.S. Air Force and three years in NATO, and completed some interesting educational opportunities.

In 1994, I was selected for a faculty position at West Point. I also attended the U.S. Air Force’s Air University and earned a master’s degree in military operational art and science. Subsequently, I was assigned to a NATO headquarters in The Netherlands. During that assignment, I had the opportunity to participate in operations in Kosovo, Macedonia and Afghanistan before being selected to return to West Point as a center director and member of the senior faculty. In preparation for my return to West Point, I earned a doctorate in higher education with a minor in educational psychology from Penn State.

Education has been a big part of my Army career and something I wanted to continue upon retirement. My family and I enjoyed life in Happy Valley so much during grad school that we decided to move back here permanently. I was fortunate enough to be selected for a part-time faculty position in the higher education program – the same program that did a phenomenal job of preparing me for my work at West Point.

For me, working in the College of Education is a perfect fit. Just like soldiers, students in the college want to challenge themselves, continually develop as educators or administrators and generally set high goals for themselves. Getting to spend time with them on that journey is both a privilege and an honor.

Maggie Kwok
Petty officer third class in the Navy

I served as a petty officer third class in the Navy from August 2002 to December 2007. Currently, I am a part-time master's student in the College of Education’s counselor education program. I am also a full-time employee with Penn State World Campus as an academic adviser and disability specialist for the military/veteran student population. I decided to pursue counseling because there is a need for counselors with a military background to provide mental health services to the military and veteran population.

Logan DeMarcus
Corporal E-4 in the Marine Corps

I served as an infantry assultman in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2009 to 2013, where I was deployed to Marjah, Afghanistan, twice between 2010 and 2012. My time in the service encouraged resourcefulness, patience, discipline and initiative, all of which play a vital role in achieving success and independence.

When I enlisted in the Marines, getting my schooling paid for was the last of my concerns, but now it has allowed me the freedom to pursue opportunities in pursuing a career focused around helping others. I am now a rehabilitation & human services major and veteran outreach counselor for Penn State’s Office of Veterans Programs. I hope to work in veteran aid upon graduation.

Tim Hormsby
Technical sergeant E-6 in the Air Force

I served in the Air Force from 1986 to 2008. I came to the College of Education to enhance my educational opportunities and have access to better opportunities in job searches. My military service built the discipline needed to accomplish the work in the timeframe required at the College of Education.

I am studying organization development and change through World Campus. I wish to get a job with a larger organization doing training and employee development.

Jeremy Moeller
Staff sergeant E-6 in the Army

The work ethic that I acquired during my military service is the most important thing that has correlated to my success while I have been in college. I was put into an environment where I was able to learn, succeed and mature as an adult when I served in the military from 1998 to 2007. It taught me how to structure my time in order to accomplish the mission and the discipline to follow through.

I came to the College of Education because I wanted to become a special education teacher after I got out of the Army. My wife’s family is from State College, so after completing my time in service in Fort Bliss, Texas, we moved to State College so my wife could work on her Ph.D in school psychology, and I could get my undergraduate degree in special education.

After completing my B.S. in special education, I decided to complete my M.Ed. in special education since I still had some funds from my GI Bill. Upon graduating with my M.Ed. in 2010, I got a research assistant position at the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. Currently, I am a third year doctoral student in special education.

Richard Hazler
Specialist 5 in the Army

I had been a teacher before being drafted out of a master’s program in school counseling in 1971. Once drafted out of my master’s program, I signed up for a third year with the promise that my specialty would be enlisted counselor in the Army. I wound up as the enlisted man’s representative to Division of Army Training and Doctrine Command when we were developing drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programs for the Army and helping Army posts institute the programs.

I am now a professor of counselor education and coordinator of counselor education programs. When I got out of the Army, I used the GI Bill to finish the degree, become a school counselor for three years and get my doctorate in counselor education. I worked as faculty at several universities until research opportunities brought me to Penn State in 2003. 

Nick Yingling
Senior airman in the Air Force

I served as a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force from August 1999 through September 2003. I was a Korean language translator and intelligence analyst.

I’m getting my master’s degree to further my career, and my current work experience matches up quite well with the organization development and change (OD&C) MPS program.

Not only am I a grad student in the OD&C MPS program, I’m also the lead LMS/QA functional tester for ITS services and solutions.

Rick Kubina
E5 (petty officer second class) in the Navy

I served in the Navy in the Seabees. I left service as an E5 (petty officer second class). My designation was equipment operator. I served from 1988 to 1994. Some of that time was in the reserves.

Penn State is one of the premier institutions for conducting research and teaching students. I’m a special education professor at Penn State.

My service did not overlap. But the military taught me very important life lessons that have helped me to this day: Show up on time, be respectful, understand and respect the chain of command, and keep your hair short. Well, that last one isn't a necessity, but it has its advantages in the summer.

Scott Specht
Captain in the Army

I enlisted in April 1991 to get the GI Bill so I could attend Penn State. I spent 23 years in the Army, 15 as an enlisted/non-commissioned officer and eight as a commissioned officer. I retired July 20, 2014, as a captain in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. I’m currently a graduate student in the College of Education. I am majoring in adult education. I came to the College of Education because I love to teach. I have taught trauma and intensive care modules to military nurses and medics.

I also have an interest in either an adviser role (which corresponds to my time in the Army as a leader, counselor and mentor) or as an outreach person for students (particularly fellow veterans) with disabilities, as I myself am a disabled vet who has benefitted from some of the services offered by the Office of Disability Services at Penn State.

Last Updated November 11, 2014