Each year 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.
At the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), we honor the dedicated service of our veterans, whether a student, faculty or staff member, or among our alumni, like Ivette Amaya (SEBS’18), who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, with a minor in nutrition.
Ivette is a first-generation Mexican American. She’s married to an active-duty Marine and is the mother of two young boys. She shared some of her experiences with the SEBS/NJAES Newsroom to mark Veterans Day 2020.
Why did you enter the military and in what branch did you serve? I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 18 because I wanted the opportunity to serve the country that gave my family the great opportunity to succeed when they first arrived as immigrants. It was an additional perk to receive financial help for college and to potentially travel.
What motivated you to come to Rutgers, and SEBS in particular? I have always loved science and enjoyed learning about all the different mechanisms that kept us going daily. The biological focus offered by SEBS was what motivated me to choose SEBS over the alternatives.
What were the major differences between being in the military and college life? There are many differences, but the hardest for me was being in a new institution alone. It was a culture shock not being in the same structured environment I was used too. I felt unprepared for college when I first started, even though I was only away from the school environment for four years. It took about a year to adjust mentally to my new normal.
Were there resources for veterans at Rutgers that you found helpful in adjusting to the challenges? Aside from trying to adjust to the college environment, I also missed being around like-minded individuals who also served. I found about the Rutgers Veteran’s Services Team during my sophomore year. They were able to help with my VA questions, enrollments, credits for my military service, work-study volunteer application, anything and everything that I had a question on. From big-ticket items to which bus to take to some of my classes, the Vet house quickly turned into my “safe place” when I wasn’t in class. The Vet House also allowed me to meet many veterans who were also transitioning into the civilian sector. We were each other’s support system, and the Vet house made it possible for us to meet and form that relationship with one another.
What has your life been like after graduation? Life after graduation has been busy! With my experience in Supply Chain, thanks to the Marine Corps and my Rutgers degree in Biological Sciences, I was able to get a job with a pharmaceutical company. I have been with them now for two years and I serve as the primary liaison for all our manufacturers of the drug to ensure that we meet our patients’ demands. My family is healthy and happy, and I thank my experience at Rutgers for allowing me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and the Vet House for being my #1 resource when needed.