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Students use military precision
to balance classes, jobs, life
Jerry Vanest, Joshua Beardsley,
Trine University is proud to have military members, veterans and their family members enrolled as students on its main and regional campuses. We join as the nation salutes veterans and provide an opportunity to meet a couple of our students.
Helping fellow veterans
Jerry Vanest of Mishawaka balances classes, a full-time job, military obligations and family yet still finds ways to reach out to fellow veterans.
With 11 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy and 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserve under his belt, Vanest seems to have developed a keen sense for military members’ needs and finding ways to help.
Vanest enrolled about a year ago at Trine’s South Bend Regional Campus in Mishawaka. He earned an associate degree in criminal justice at Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend and started at Trine after seeing a presentation at school.
He’s working toward a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in psychology. And, he’s been working as a probation officer for St. Joe County Community Corrections for two years. While he’s not certain whether he’ll pursue a master’s degree, it is likely his career will touch the lives of fellow veterans.
“When I came home from Iraq, they had civilians who had never been in combat tell you they know how you feel,” he said, adding the notion seems implausible. “So, maybe being a counselor to a soldier coming home and returning to civilian life” is something Vanest might pursue.
As a probation officer, Vanest said he doesn’t like to see some veterans return home and face difficult situations.
Vanest can’t solve that problem but he does extend advice to those pursuing a college degree. “I have recommended Trine to other vets. If you want it to work, you have to be prepared to give up a lot of social life because every class is like two classes in one so you have to be on the ball,” he said of classes offered by the School of Professional Studies.
“I focus so much on getting my classes done, working at a full-time job and I do the military thing one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer,” he said, adding that he’s thankful his wife is patient.
Vanest served in the first Gulf war, Somalia in 1994 and Iraqi Freedom, where he was wounded, but it is his work off the battlefield that he finds most gratifying.
“What I was most proud of over there (Iraq) is when we rebuilt a schoolhouse and got to see the looks on those kids’ faces when they got the new school and books. It was a really good thing for all the bad things I had to do and see.”
Ready to give back
Joshua Beardsley, a Trine civil engineering major from Sherwood, Ohio, uses military precision to complete his daily schedule.
A typical day, in his words: Start at 9 p.m. by waking up and getting ready for a work shift that runs from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.; then driving to Trine, with a pit stop for coffee, for classes; going through classes; going home, sleeping ‘til 9 p.m. and doing it all over again. Where’s the spot on the schedule for studying, one might wonder. Beardsley said he does that between classes.
“I’ve been on a schedule like that since freshmen year,” he said on a recent morning. Before thinking “that doesn’t sound that bad,” bear in mind he’s maintained that schedule for 10 years.
This year seems to have ushered in a year of 10s for Beardsley: 10 years since he first enrolled in college, 10 years in the U.S. Army reserve and 10 years working at a manufacturing plant.
He admits “it’s a lot harder than it looks” and it would be “a lot easier to just give up,” but that’s not an option.
It takes but a few minutes to figure out that Beardsley’s not a quitter, isn’t stymied by obstacles, believes tough tasks are worth doing and thinks there are no free rides.
Beardsley’s quick to point out he didn’t use the GI Bill to pay for his first two years of college, he paid himself, and he’s finishing his degree through a Veterans Affairs program for disabled vets. Now 30, he is the youngest post commander in the history of the Disabled American Veterans Defiance (Ohio) Chapter 36, the Defiance Crescent-News reported in December.
Here’s a timeline of Beardsley’s life since he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve:
December 2000 – Enlisted in the Army Reserve
August 2002 -- Enrolled at Trine to study civil engineering
September 2002 – Started manufacturing job in Archbold, Ohio
February 2004 – Withdrew from Trine, left for basic training
October 2004 – In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom served four months in Tikrit, Iraq, and seven months in Ramadi, Iraq
August 2006 to spring 2008 – Off active duty; two semesters at Northwest State Community College, Archbold, (more convenient with job)
Fall 2008 – Returned to Trine for one semester
March 2009 to May 2010 – Active duty in Baghdad, Iraq
Spring 2011 – Back to Trine for classes
“The toughest part has been to re-motivate myself,” he said, to get back into a groove for studying and to remember what was already learned, such as math.
Beardsley is on pace to graduate from Trine in spring 2014, and his dream job “would be to go as a civilian to Afghanistan and help the people there build infrastructure,” he said. “I would like to work for the Army Corp of Engineers to give back to my country.” He wants to continue to serve even though he’s already put 10 years in the Reserve.
“When you help people out, at least somebody else gets something, too.” That’s not just a sentiment; it’s a way of life. Beardsley has been constructing a house for two years, and has done 75 percent of the work by himself. Beardsley and his friends and family help each other by trading services, rather than paying for help. Thus, he gets the help he needs and those who help him get the help they need down the road.
College degree key to future
Navy veteran Dustin Perry is focused on his studies and gaining real-life experience while keeping his eye on the goal: a career in criminal justice.
Before Perry ever stepped foot on the campus of Trine University, he began charting his course and says university personnel have been involved every step of the way.
Six to eight months before active duty ended, Perry began investigating where he could earn a degree. Perry, a Martinsville/Bloomington native, left Indiana University to serve in the U.S. Navy for six years.
“I’m someone who likes to set realistic goals that I can attain,” Perry said. “Toward my last little bit in the Navy, I wanted to have a plan and have goals. Going back to school and finishing was my No. 1 goal.”
He initially checked his alma mater, but found it posed the same hurdle as the other schools he first considered: he could not start classes for a few months after his Feb. 27 discharge. He wanted to start immediately after his discharge and Trine provided that option. His wife, Lauren, an Angola native, had suggested Trine.
An online check revealed that Trine’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) had starting dates more in line with Perry’s wishes, so he contacted the school. “One person in particular, Andrea DeLancey, helped me out a lot prior to getting out of the service. I talked with her about my academic plan and what I was trying to do and she helped get it all together to get me enrolled in class,” he said. “She really took care of everything in Indiana when I was in North Carolina finishing my time in the Navy.” DeLancey was a student support specialist for SPS and is currently Middle College director at Trine.
DeLancey and Michael Lazusky, director of SPS’ Angola Education Center, met with Perry to help him set his course at Trine. The SPS classes started Feb. 28, a day after Perry’s discharge this year.
“They were very helpful,” Perry said. “They helped me adjust right away to taking classes again. It was a fairly easy transition with the fact that I wasn’t bearing such a heavy class load as I would if I were a traditional student. I take two classes at a time in the evening so I’m able to work and have my internship, so that’s helped out a lot.” Perry is an intern in the adult probation department in Lagrange County. His duties include accompanying probation officers to court, assisting with presentencing investigations and sentencing recommendations and administrative tasks.
Perry said he counts on Lazusky and Carol Platt, student support specialist at the Angola Education Center, to answer his questions as he chases his bachelor’s degree. Trine’s SPS is geared toward working adults and most classes convene one night per week during an eight-week session of a 16-week semester.
“We are pleased to help Dustin map his way academically at Trine and are certain that he has the diligence and self-discipline to reach his goals,” Lazusky said. “Giving adult students an opportunity to enhance their skills in order to advance their careers is one of the reasons we are here.”
“Depending on your area of interest, there are several great degree programs through the School of Professional Studies through Trine, both in a live-class atmosphere or online,” Perry said. “With that combination of educational factors, as well as the helpful staff and faculty at Trine who have been more than willing and excellent as far as assisting me for my classes, it’s a great program.”
Perry is on track to graduate in December 2013 and in January 2014 he plans to continue at Trine to earn a Master of Science degree with a major in criminal justice. After that, the veteran plans to work in an upper-level administrative position at an adult correctional facility or juvenile detention center.
To culminate his plan, Perry will combine his experience at Trine with knowledge gained from his internship and years in the Navy. A petty officer second class, Perry spent much of his career as a hospital corpsman and served as a public affairs writer in Washington, D.C. A highlight during Perry’s stint in public affairs was an opportunity to meet former secretary of defense Robert Gates.