On November 11, we commemorate Veterans Day in tribute to the men and women who have served the United States in the armed forces. Across Rutgers, we take pride in the dedicated service of those who have served in uniform, some of them still on active duty.
Playing a pivotal role in helping our veterans advance and succeed in their studies at Rutgers is the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services as well as campus-based resources that support the men and women on active duty and those making the transition to civilian life.
This week at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), we honor the dedicated service of our veterans by profiling SEBS students and alumni who have served or are currently serving in the military.
Peter Mahoney (SEBS ’22) is a Plant Science major, Environmental and Business Economics minor, who transferred from Middlesex Community College, where he was very involved with student veterans’ organizations. We asked Peter to share his experience as a veteran and college student.
I grew up in Iselin, New Jersey and am a veteran student at Rutgers. I joined the Air Force five months after graduating high school because I wasn’t yet sure what direction I wanted to go in life, but I knew joining would give me great skills, training, education, benefits, direction in life, and a sense of belonging to something bigger than myself.
I wanted a new, challenging experience in life and signed a contract as a Combat Controller. I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into when I chose this special ops job. Only about 10% of Airmen make it thru the 2.5-year vigorous training pipeline consisting of 9 tech schools to earn the scarlet beret. But I did it and served for 5 years, stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Besides the cool skills I learned including air traffic control, parachuting, survival, and scuba diving, my training taught me that you can push yourself much further than you thought possible, and through perseverance anything can be accomplished. The Military also taught me discipline and these skills helped me after I left the Air Force and started using my benefits to attend college.
The training pipeline was similar to college classes in the sense that most of the tech schools I attended lasted a few months or less. There was some classwork, but most of it involved hands-on training unlike many college classes.
I was nervous about starting college, but I knew my experiences had prepared me to be successful. I pursued a degree in biology and started at North West Florida State College for a semester, transferred to the University of the Virgin Islands for a semester and a half, and then transferred to Middlesex County College for 4 semesters.
During my last semester at Middlesex, the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services at Rutgers extended an invitation to the Veterans group at Middlesex their Christmas dinner party. I attended and can say that it definitely helped me transition to Rutgers and meet fellow Rutgers veterans. Their support, online and through email, has been very helpful in getting me set up and registered for classes during this pandemic.
In these stressful times, it is comforting to learn that the Office is also hosting a “Veterans Support Group” virtual meeting to help veteran students de-stress, which I plan to attend. Additionally, the Office has invited me to join STEM VETERANS USA, an organization that assists veterans in STEM majors with obtaining internships and networking in different science fields of study.
At SEBS I have chosen to major in Plant Biology, Natural Products option and minor in Environmental & Business Economics. I chose Rutgers and this major/minor after attending the “Cannademics” cannabis education seminar at Middlesex featuring several panelists, from grad students, professors, and Rutgers researchers, to CBD, vape, and yoga companies, who spoke about cannabis and the Plant Biology program at Rutgers. The seminar really sparked my interest.
Both my major and minor are housed at SEBS and I am excited about being a part of a school with its rich history as one the first land-grant colleges. I like the fact that they have the resources of a big college with the feel of a smaller college. My sister Rachel Mahoney just recently graduated from SEBS and really enjoyed her time there and recommended it to me as well. Upon graduation, I hope to work in the cannabis industry as a grower and dream to one day own my own dispensary.