Newswise — Student-veterans and current members of the United States military and their dependents face a unique set of challenges when attending college. Every CSU campus is committed to supporting these nontraditional students and provides benefits and resources to ensure their academic success.
During Women's Military History Week, the CSU celebrates the diversity of women in higher education who have served their country by highlighting success stories from across the state.
Yessenia Mendoza - U.S. Army National Guard - CSU Bakersfield - Psychology/Criminal Justice
In addition to being a mom, working two jobs, and taking a full course load at Cal State Bakersfield, Yessenia Mendoza is a soldier in the National Guard.
Guard soldiers like Mendoza respond when disaster strikes at home and can be deployed when our country needs them around the world. Mendoza recently served as a first-responder to the disastrous Montecito mudslide, helping to carry victims to safety. In a three-day search and rescue mission, Mendoza and seven fellow National Guard soldiers rescued approximately 1,800 Montecito residents.
Being in the guard means one day Mendoza may be activated as a soldier, and the next she's back in the classroom. She says this took some time to get used to, but CSU Bakersfield has the resources and support system to help her succeed.
"Starting college, I had to adjust my work, military and family life in order to fit everything in," Mendoza said. "As a first-generation college student, I had many questions, but faculty have been so helpful providing me with the guidance I need."
After college, Mendoza plans to attend graduate school with the ultimate goal of becoming a psychologist to work with either active duty military or veterans.
Jamie Rangel - U.S. Navy - CSU San Marcos - Management Information Systems
Jamie Rangel spent her first six years after high school in the U.S. Navy, being deployed three times and visiting 10 countries. When she returned to her native California for college, CSU San Marcos (CSUSM) appealed to her because of its smaller campus and its business programs.
Rangel applied for a position with ESTEP (Energy System Technology Evaluation Program), a program that provides for energy related projects for STEM students and is housed at CSUSM. Through the program, Rangel received mentorship from the directors and staff that helped her to feel supported both academically and personally.
“They are very interested in student exposure to networking and internship opportunities, and in seeing students succeed in not just education but in home life and professional settings,” says Rangel.
Rangel says that one of the things that made her feel most connected with her campus community was using her leadership skills to give back to other veterans, advising women like her to volunteer their time outside of class to help others grow.
Following her graduation in May, Rangel plans to attend the university’s specialized MBA program for Business Intelligence and work in the clean energy industry as a data analyst and continue sharing resources with other veterans.
Iana Lim - U.S. Navy - San Francisco State - Business Administration/International Business
Like many veterans returning to college, Iana Lim was nervous that she wouldn’t fit in with the other students whose life experiences had differed so much from her own. Lim had served in the U.S. Navy for four years after high school as a machinist mate before attending San Francisco State University (SFSU) to study international business.
Lim chose SFSU in part because of the fact that its Veterans Center is directed by a certified veteran, rather than a civilian, who was able to relate to her and provide her the support she needed.
Lim became involved with V.E.T.S. @SFSU, a student-led organization dedicated to supporting veterans and dependents, ensuring academic success. Lim now serves as the social club’s president, organizing workshops and professional development opportunities for other veterans.
“The diversity of opinions at SFSU really impressed me, as well,” says Lim. “The professors value learning from their students and make us feel open to discuss our opinions, which helped me to build my identity.”
Following her graduation in May, Lim plans to pursue a master’s in business administration, saying her ultimate goal is to do something that positively impacts people around her and affects change in the world.
Lauren Kent - U.S. Navy - CSU Monterey Bay - Molecular Biology
Lauren Kent served on active duty as cryptologic technician communications for the U.S. Navy for five years and as an information technician in the U.S. Navy Reserves for two years.
Before leaving the military, she was selected to testify to Congress as the sole student representative about the challenges millennial students face across the U.S. – challenges Kent herself was worried about facing when she returned to school soon after.
Kent felt welcomed by the CSU Monterey Bay community, enjoying the small class sizes and intimate learning experience as well as the resources and support she received from professors and the Veterans Center staff, saying each goes above and beyond to address students’ needs.
Kent encourages current student veterans to use the leadership skills they’ve acquired through their involvement in the military to provide support for others.
“It really is rewarding to be a non-traditional student with a unique perspective on education and life that can be beneficial for other students,” says Kent.
Following her graduation in May, Kent plans to continue to work toward her lifelong dream of becoming a physician. She wants to use her education to fulfill the health care needs of service members and veterans as a military medical doctor.
Margot Soria - U.S. Marine Corps - CSU Long Beach - Criminology/Emergency Management
Margot Soria spent two years in the Marines working on expeditionary airfield systems. Like many other veterans, she experienced difficulty beginning college as a freshman. Soria says her age and life experiences sometimes made her feel isolated from her younger classmates.
But things changed for Soria when she reached out for help at CSU Long Beach's Veterans Services — the center made her feel at home and gave her a sense of belonging on campus. Soria now works part-time at the center, helping veterans access educational benefits and campus resources.
"As veterans, there are many things we can relate to that give us a special connection to each other," Soria said. "The center provides a safe space where we can get guidance and help each other succeed."
Soria's biggest piece of advice for women veterans considering going to college? It's OK to ask for help.
"In the military, women are always trying to prove themselves in a male dominated environment. We may not ask for help because we don't want to appear weak," Soria said. "As veterans, we take some of that with us. We should be asking for help and taking advantage of all the resources campuses have to help us succeed."
To learn more about how the CSU empowers student-veterans and current members of the military, please visit: https://www2.calstate.edu/attend/student-services/troops-to-college/Pages/default.aspx.