From Service to Scholar: A Q&A With Veteran Grad Student Michaela Phillips
Published Date: 11/10/2023
Michaela Phillips ‘23
What is your major?
I am currently enrolled in the sport physiology and performance coaching graduate program, but I also received my Bachelor of Science in exercise science here at Carroll in 2023.
Where are you from?
What branch of the military did you serve in?
What years did you serve?
2012-2019 (Afghanistan 2013-2014)
What led you to pursue an education at Carroll?
I had quite an adventurous journey getting to Carroll. When I separated, I started at East Carolina University for Nutrition and Dietetics. Then, when COVID happened, I moved back to Wisconsin and transferred to UW-Madison, where I stayed for a year before deciding I wanted to go to physical therapy (PT) school. So, I actually chose Carroll for its PT program and finished my undergrad here.
What challenges, if any, did you face when returning to school?
I think there were a lot of challenges, age being a big one; it’s definitely a different experience when you are anywhere from five to 10 years older than your peers and, in some cases, closer to the age of your professor than your peers. Sometimes, I found it hard to connect with others because of the age gap. It was also challenging to balance the financial aspect. You go from having financial stability to not having the time to work full-time and take a full course load. So you sacrifice the work time or suffer through burning yourself out doing both. I have done both options, having bouts of no job and then others where my days are 18 hours long from start to finish. Those were probably my biggest challenges, but I know others face so many more.
How have you been able to connect with other veterans on campus, and how has that support network helped you?
When I first came to Carroll, there was no veteran presence on campus. Because of that, my first year here was lacking in the veteran support community aspect. But I was lucky enough to have a large role in starting the Carroll Student Veteran Organization (CSVO). Being its first president, I built a campus presence for veterans and made their transition experience more smooth.
What resources has Carroll provided to help veterans succeed academically and personally?
Over the last two years, things have really gotten better. We now have a specific faculty member to contact who advocates for the veteran community as well, which is a great asset.
The development of the CSVO has been amazing, and I am so honored to have been a part of making that happen. This organization completely changed my experience. Not only did the CSVO come to be, but I was also able to establish a Career and College Success (CCS) class specifically for veterans who have served overseas and had their own cultural experiences. This class was absolutely amazing and such a blessing for myself and others. We had about eight people in the class, and our professor was also a veteran. It really developed a support network for us and gave us that feeling of camaraderie. It felt like a family, and to this day, we are all still in contact and try to get together.
About a year after establishing the organization, the Vet House emerged. Right now, the house is fantastic and is tailored to benefit veterans and other military-affiliated students. Public safety has been so excellent for the house and the organization. The house has established visibility on campus, and the veteran community is starting to feel more heard.
We recently received an endowment to keep things running to continuously provide support for the military community at Carroll, which is so amazing! The house has ADA accessibility, a kitchenette, multiple computers and other amenities that are especially helpful for our commuting veteran students. The CSVO and the Veterans House have been the most extraordinary things Carroll could have done to provide resources for veterans.
What advice would you give to other veterans who are considering returning to school?
It’s essential to find somewhere that makes veterans feel welcome and provides resources. I don’t think anyone is under the impression that it’s going to be an easy transition to balance, especially the older you are when deciding to go to school. Although it may be hard at times, you will make it through because you’ve probably already been through something even harder. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.