Veterans face many challenges when transitioning from military to student life, including everything from navigating GI Bill paperwork to learning new classroom technologies to connecting with future employers and fellow students. There are almost 350 student veterans in the Clemson Family, over 40 of whom are students in Clemson University’s MBA Program – more than in any one graduate program at the university.
One of those veterans, Clemson MBA candidate Jeffrey Crouch, took note of the challenges he has faced, as well as the support he received to overcome them, and set out to help his fellow veterans get connected with the resources and information they need to succeed.
Originally from Greenville, S.C., Crouch joined the United States Marine Corps in 2001 prior to 9/11 and worked in aviation logistics and maintenance, serving tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq before receiving an honorable discharge at the rank of Staff Sergeant in 2012. One of the greatest sacrifices he made when choosing to enlist was giving up the opportunity to attend his dream school for undergrad – Clemson University. After his service, he decided to use the GI Bill to attend Clemson’s renowned MBA Program.
“I knew it was an amazing school and program, but I didn’t know how caring the Clemson Family was, and how much they value the input of their students until attending,” says Crouch, now in his second year at the program. He admits that he had his own troubles adapting to some of the new technologies in the online MBA but says, “the key was reaching out for the amazing support the faculty and staff have to offer.” He adds that “the transition was pretty seamless” after adjusting to a new way of approaching learning.
Crouch also isn’t afraid to share his own suggestions for the betterment of campus life. “The Military and Veteran Engagement Division has always done an orientation for in-person students but didn’t have an option for students in online programs,” he explains. “I brought up this point and now orientations will be shared online as well. This is just an example of how Clemson listens to its students’ needs and continually strives for improvement.”
Seeking more ways to get involved, Crouch now serves on Clemson’s Veteran Commission and applied for a leadership role in the MBA Student Association (MBASA) where he was recently elected Veteran Engagement Liaison.
“Success in Clemson’s MBA Program means getting connected and taking advantage of resources both inside and outside the classroom,” explains Kelli Seawell, Assistant Director of Career Services and Student Experience. “Our veteran students, in particular, have amazing leadership, teamwork and communication skills but it is about marketing these skills and knowing where to apply them.”
Seawell, also from Greenville, serves as Advisor to the MBASA and has worked with Clemson for almost five years helping connect MBA students with resources needed for career growth and networking. “I love the fact that we have students who want to be involved, engaged and active in leadership roles – not only to grow themselves but also to help their fellow students.”
Crouch is one of those students taking the time to help others in need of guidance. “Because veterans want to be independent and figure things out for themselves, they are often the last to reach out for help,” Crouch explains, noting that struggling students may not be aware of resources like GI Bill assistance or student and community groups that offer support.
“While I can’t help everyone, I make it my goal to support those I can and connect them to the resources they need.” Crouch concludes, “I’m thankful that Clemson not only has these resources but that they execute these services well, creating a system of support within the Clemson Family. I look forward to more opportunities to come and to being a resource to future students when I am an alumnus.”
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