Front and Center with Ray Mollison

To cap off this week’s posts about how to link up with fellow veterans, both for professional and personal reasons, I interviewed the current President of the Students Veterans of America (SVA) chapter and the University of Southern Florida (USF). Ray was an Army SGT, serving four years clearing roads of IEDs as a Combat Engineer with the 3rd Infantry Division out of Ft. Stewart, GA. He deployed twice to Iraq (Baghdad and Mosul). He is now pursuing a degree in History at USF, a decision he says he made because “USF is ranked 4th in the nation as a veteran friendly campus.” Upon completing his degree, Ray intends to return to the Army, only this time as an officer.

Ray, who has been president of the USF SVA for nine months, has this to say about what the SVA is and how it works at USF:

“The SVA at USF is a veteran support organization that assists in veterans reintegration to foster a personal community engagement geared for social/physical activities, and academic/professional success.
The purpose of the organization is an independent student run organization that collaborates with the Office of Veteran Services, the Veteran Research and Reintegration Steering Committee, and USF faculty, staff or student focused organizations on campus. The SVA strives to further the social, physical and educational well-being of the veteran community.”

Read on to see how the SVA helped Ray transition from servicemember to student and what he has for students veterans who are considering getting involved in their own campus’s student veteran organization.

1)      How would you categorize your transition from service member to veteran?

The transition as a servicemember to student veteran took time to adjust. I became accustomed to the military life style and was unfamiliar with the civilian lifestyle. So, when I started to attend college, I was immersed in an unfamiliar environment [that] felt foreign to me.

2)      How did you get involved in Student Veterans of America SVA)?

I got involved in the SVA by someone informing me about the time and location of the upcoming meeting. I did not take an interest in the organization immediately, because I did not know what the organization entailed. I attended [a] meeting for the first time and was very interested in participating in the organization. I began taking leading roles, such as organizing events.

3) How would you say SVA helped your transition process?

The SVA has helped significantly [in my] transition into the college environment. I was surrounded by people who understood my discomfort and uncomfortable feelings. I was part of [a] group that experienced the same struggles and pains of transitioning from the military to the civilian life and did not make me feel as thought I was alone to battle my inner feeling conflict. I had missed and longed for the feeling of camaraderie and team that I once experienced in the military and the SVA filled that lost feeling. The SVA helped me to ease comfortably and successfully into college.

4) What other organizations/policies/events does USF have in place for veterans that you have found most helpful?

We are an organization that facilitates an environment that fosters social engagements, academic success and employment for student veterans at USF.

The SVA at USF has built a relationship with a non-profit veteran organization called Team Red, White, and Blue. It is an organization that helps veterans engage in social and physical activities to assist in their transition from the military to college. The social activities consist of BBQ’s or hanging out and the physical activities promote “being active” through fitness or sports or volunteering in the community.

The SVA [also] facilitates academic success by providing tutoring services for veterans that struggle with their classes at USF. Lastly, the SVA assist in employment opportunities for student veterans in Tampa. The SVA at USF has a business partnership with Jacobs Technology, where we have established a mentoring program to assist in helping student veterans with their resumes and to prepare student veterans for employment opportunities at JT.

5) What advice would you give to student veterans who may be reluctant to get involved with veterans groups in campus?

Attend a meeting with an open mind and determine whether the organization facilitates a successful environment for academic success and professional development in your transition from the military to the civilian life.

© 2014, Sarah Maples. All rights reserved.

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