Bridging service and studies
The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering is home to many military and veteran students at Ohio State. These students either have served, or are currently serving in the U.S. Military or National Guard.
Haelie Egbert is a graduate student in MAE, and currently serves as a jet engine mechanic in the Ohio Air National Guard. She said that there generally is a big transition between military service and academic studies.
“There is a lot more freedom in being a student than being a military servicemember,” said Egbert. “When I first came back from my training, it felt a little strange going from someone telling me what to do all the time to me having the ability to decide for myself”
Egbert said there are also many parts of military life that carry over into student life, including a high attention to detail, and ability to follow instructions.
“I think the self-discipline and diligence that I learned has enabled me to be a better engineering student,” Egbert said.
Kyle Sharkey, an MAE master’s student who served as an Air Force engineer from 2012 to 2020, had a similar experience transitioning back into student life.
“The transition has much less to do with engineering,” Sharkey said, “and a whole lot more to do with studying.”
Sharkey said although he fits into the category of student veteran, he considers himself the same as other Ohio State students. He also mentioned that the difficulty can be greater for students who enter the military first before returning for undergraduate studies.
“Since I’m working on my Graduate degree, I’ve had a lot less challenges that the previous category will face,” said Sharkey. “Mainly, being older than most of your school peers can be a bit weird.”
The transition between service and academics can vary between individuals. Some students, like Egbert, must take time off for deployment, which pushed back her graduation date. Military students might need to take days or even weeks out of the semester for their service.
Other students may spend time in the military before entering college, or, like Sharkey, before pursuing a graduate degree. And some veteran students have other responsibilities outside of their studies, like families to take care of.
This is where support can be essential for military and veteran students at Ohio State. Egbert emphasized the importance of faculty and staff being educated on the various needs of military and veteran students.
“With good organization and communication, the difficulty of the balancing act often subsides,” Egbert said.
For both Sharkey and Egbert, the Office of Military and Veterans Services has been a great resource.
“There’s no stress at all regarding GI Bill, finding opportunities for jobs, help, et cetera,” said Sharkey.
Egbert also noted the network of organization and programs for veterans and military students. These include the Peer 2 Peer sponsor program, Vets4Vets, and the Veterans Community Advocate Program, which Egbert is a member of.
“Through this program, I have been able to put on numerous events to benefit the military and veteran community at OSU, like a STEM networking night and care package assembly event,” Egbert said. “We hope to continue to work with the College of Engineering to create a more unified community for our Veteran and Military affiliated engineering students in the future.”
The paths for military and veteran students can often come with unique challenges. But through hard work, community and support, these students have continued to set example of excellence at Ohio State.
We would like to thank all the military and veteran students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and across Ohio State, for their service.