What Do Student Veterans Seek in a University?

Villanova’s Mike Brown asked student veterans what they look for when attempting to transition to new careers.

By: Mike Brown

Working in higher education can be challenging, rewarding, stressful and fulfilling all at the same time. For me, getting the opportunity to work with student veterans at a college like Villanova University is truly an honor and something that I enjoy day in and day out. What about those student veterans though, how do they feel about higher education? What are their highlights and lowlights? Is it just as simultaneously fulfilling and stressful for them? 

I wanted to include a few of their voices and perspectives on their academic journeys. We have all read many articles about the transition from the military to higher education, but I wanted to hear it straight from the source. In writing this piece, I asked several questions to a couple of student veterans who are undergrads here at Villanova. Neither is originally from the area. They came here to learn, grow and move forward in their journeys toward careers post-military.

 Culture that Fits 

I first sat down with Hunter, a former Army infantry NCO who spent some time in Afghanistan and served with the 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Airborne Division. These are two very proud and prominent units within the Army.
Hunter is studying sociology at Villanova, after initially coming in as a history major, and is still trying to figure out what he ultimately wants to do upon graduation. He spends his time networking, studying and learning, while looking for an internship for the upcoming year. 

I first asked Hunter for the advice he would give to any veteran looking at colleges. 

“I recommend a place that is a good fit,” said Hunter. “What is a good fit – what do you want? Personally, I wanted academic rigor, a Catholic institution (I am Catholic), and I wanted a team to root for. While these might be silly for some, these were important for me. It was and still is hard for me to look past rankings, but I would urge folks to only use these sparingly. Finally, I wanted to be at a place that I would like for four years.”  

Next, we focused on what surprised him the most since coming into higher education. 

“In the fear of sounding like an old man yelling at the clouds, the lack of respect or attentiveness that students often display in class was jarring. This is more often the exception rather than the norm, but it happens enough to be noticeable,” said Hunter. “The Army ingrained a lot in me, paying attention to someone at the head of the room is one of those things. On the flip side of that, the professors recognize attentive students and appreciate that.” 

Finally, I asked him what being a Villanovan means to him. 

“Two things – firstly I want to acknowledge that Villanova is an Augustinian institution. I mention this fact because that means we are in direct line with an immensely important philosophical figure. Not many institutions can say that,” said Hunter. “Secondly, ‘Veritas, Unitas, Caritas’ — our motto meaning truth, unity, loveis deeply impactful to me. These three words will carry me a long way in life.” 

In speaking with him further, Villanova has been a great fit for him, and he looks forward to more good times at basketball games and regional trips with other student veterans, as well as learning more about what is next.

The picture is a group of Villanova student veterans who went to Boston this Summer. Hunter is the fourth from the left, and Jeff is the third from the right in the front row.
A group of Villanova student veterans who went to Boston this Summer.

Support Matters

The next veteran I sat down with was Jeff, an Army veteran from Texas. Jeff came to Villanova after spending time at a community college. He is studying computer science and is interested in a career in artificial intelligence. 

Jeff spends his time at the Prince Family Veterans Center reading, catching up on homework and socializing with other student veterans on campus. During our discussion, I asked him similar questions, including what his biggest surprise had been so far. 

The most significant surprise thus far in my college education at Villanova as a non-traditional student veteran has been the great community and support in the Veterans Resource Center,” said Jeff. “It has supplied me with a place to study, get answers to questions from people who can relate to my situation as a vet and camaraderie with fellow veterans.” 

Next, we talked about how Villanova has either helped or hindered his career search and goals. 

“Villanova has helped form my career goals with abundant resources, including help with resumes, job fairs with top-performing companies, networking, internships and undergraduate research programs,” said Jeff. “I feel a sense of support around the community to help in endeavors to be successful.” 

As I mentioned earlier, Jeff, like Hunter, is not originally from the era, so gaining networking and career advice has helped him sort out his next steps. The last question I asked Jeff was about being a Villanovan. 

“Being a Villanovan to me means a new journey,” said Jeff. “ It is a new journey with the opportunity to advance through education while surrounded by a community that embraces the motto ‘Veritas, Unitas, Caritas’ — truth, unity, and love.” 

You can see by the way they both answered the last question that we care about our community here at Villanova. That struck me because I feel the same way as an employee. 

These two are great examples of students who are thriving here on campus and thriving as Villanovans. Student veterans have a lot on their plates, and many of them are full-time students who are also balancing work families, and other responsibilities. I hope that I have shed some light on the life of a student veteran, and the journeys that they are on as they transition to new careers.

Mike Brown

Mike Brown


Michael Brown joined the US Army after high school, serving 4 years on active duty and deploying to Bosnia with the 1st Armored Division. Following his service, he attended Northern Michigan University, majoring in political science and applied ethics. In 2007, he was hired by Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq War veteran in congress, to be military and veterans affairs director. Michael became the first director of the office of veterans and military service members at Villanova University in October 2018

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