Lining the hallway at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Veteran Student Services are portraits of graduates in caps and gowns, wearing their academic stoles draped over their shoulders to signify their status as veterans. They serve as an inspiration to fellow service members attending school at the Daytona Beach Campus.
So when new student-veterans come to the front desk of Veteran Student Services seeking assistance and appear overwhelmed, U.S. Navy veteran Rebecca Perini points down the hall at the photos.
“I tell them, ‘If you walk down the hallway, you can see all the people who graduated. If they can do this, you can too,’” the Human Factors graduate student said.
U.S. Marine veteran Michael Janvier, a Spaceflight Operations senior, also explains to fellow student-veterans how he was once in their shoes. He too looks at the wall of graduates, but now anticipates seeing his photo there in May.
“During the transition from military to college life, you sometimes lose a sense of purpose,” Janvier said. “I try to give the newcomers confidence and emphasize that it’s not a weakness to ask for help.”
Perini and Janvier belong to a group of veteran-ambassadors on campus who serve as peer mentors, using their military and academic experiences to assist new students in transitioning to college life and ultimately achieving academic success.
Donna Giambra, interim director for Embry-Riddle’s Veteran Student Services, said there are seven veteran ambassadors in their office. Six additional veteran ambassadors work or volunteer in other locations on campus.
When Perini is not in the CERTS (Cognitive Engineering Research in Transportation Systems) Lab in the College of Aviation as a graduate research assistant, she’s at Veteran Student Services helping process paperwork for student benefits under the GI Bill and answering questions from current and prospective students and assisting counselors.
Prior to coming to Embry-Riddle, Perini served four years in the Navy with a nine-month deployment to the Middle East on the USS Harry S. Truman. As an aviation electronics technician, she performed maintenance and troubleshooting on the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared for the fighter and attack jet, the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
“As a vet, I can reassure veterans transitioning to campus life that there are people who care about their academic success and understand where they are coming from,” said Perini, who also received the same advice herself and found needed community resources through the campus veteran’s program.
After graduating in May with her master’s degree, she knows she has choices, possibly commissioning in the Navy as a research psychologist or working as a civilian with the military or a defense contractor.
Janvier has worked at Veteran Student Services since he started at Embry-Riddle in 2015, following nine years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Earning the rank of sergeant, he was an avionics technician on MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with two deployments to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
On campus, he also talks with incoming veterans as part of the new students Orientation Team. When he’s not in class helping to build payloads that will travel in space, he’s with the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1590 in Daytona Beach as a member of the honor guard.Janvier sums up his experience at Embry-Riddle, saying, “Thinking of others before myself is something that was taught to me by my mother and is one of the reasons that I joined the Marine Corps. Joining the VFW and helping veterans on campus allows me to continue giving back to my military community.”
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