At Attention - Joshua Chavez ’13, Emily Ramirez ’15, Maria Basulto ’13, Mauro Munguia ’15, and Tino Alvarez ’15.
STUDENT VETS BUILD CAMARADERIE, SUPPORT WITH NEW CLUB
by Veronica Galbreath M.A. `12
from The Rock, Fall 2013
FOR PETTY OFFICER, 3RD CLASS JOSHUA CHAVEZ `13, starting college after four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy required many adjustments.
“In some ways, I felt like I was out of the loop…I didn’t really fit in. I was older, and I couldn’t relate to any of the student clubs,” he recalls. “My first year I would just come to class, try to go to tutoring at CAAS, and go home.”
“It was a bit weird coming back [to the States and entering college],” adds U.S. Marines reservist Mauro Munguia ’15. “I had to build up my study habits and adjust to being older than my fellow freshman classmates. Oddly, the required reading that year was What is the What—a nonfiction that takes place in South Africa, where I had recently been deployed on a humanitarian mission.”
With the number of students utilizing veteran affairs benefits at Whittier College steadily increasing—there were 16 vets in spring 2013—Chavez’ and Munguia’s experiences are not atypical. Moving from life in the military to life on a college campus, student vets can encounter a number of challenges. And, while they may have distinct skill sets and life experiences that outpace their peers in the classroom, they also may have vastly different support needs than the usual entering freshman.
Fortunately for those who will follow, however, outgoing senior Chavez took the initiative to establish a new student club last spring to help fellow vets build a viable support system and smooth the college transition from military service to student life. Under its mission, the new SVA (Student Veterans Association) is charged with providing student vets with resources for successful academic and professional growth, including networking opportunities, tutoring, and study groups, and fostering advocacy for veteran needs. In the long-term, SVA hopes to find a space for veterans to get together, share study and job searching tips, and plan networking events with other veterans around the campus and Whittier community.
Munguia, who remains in the reserves, now serves as the club’s president. Magaly Perez ’10, who aided and encouraged Chavez to start the SVA, serves as its staff advisor. At the conclusion of the academic year, the club had a membership of about seven vets total, men and women.
“Whether on a ship a thousand miles into the ocean or on [some foreign] land far away, we had camaraderie in service,” says Chavez. “What made it better was having someone to talk to.
“So in our last SVA meeting, we [convened] in the Campus Courtyard with soda and pizza and chatted for like three hours—talking about anything from what we did in the military and in our classes to what we are going to do after college.”
“It was a whole new experience,” adds Munguia. “You feel like you belong to another family—like you have two families. It’s nice to be around and relate to people who share that common experience.”
As president, Munguia’s main objective this year is to recruit more members. Anyone interested in veterans or veterans affairs can join, including faculty, staff, and alumni.