Catherine Draves, U.S. Navy
As a non-traditional, veteran, first-generation student, my concerns around picking a college were a little different than the average student. After seven years serving as a military police officer in the Navy, I was ready to pursue my dream to become an attorney. I am self-supporting, so I transitioned to the Naval Reserves and started my educational journey by earning my A.A.S. in Paralegal Studies from SUNY Broome.
Throughout my time there I was employed full-time as a litigation paralegal at Aswad & Ingraham, LLP in Binghamton. Both my supervising attorney and the owner of the firm are Cornell Law School alums. I remember being so impressed by both their breadth of knowledge and the professional way they conducted themselves. Their strong example and investment in my development really cemented my desire to continue my education and made Cornell high on my list.
I was accepted to every school I applied to. Part of the reason I chose Cornell was the exceptional uniqueness of the ILR curriculum. I feel that it is both more comprehensive and flexible than other, similar programs. I am becoming well-rounded and exploring my interests in equal measure.
Practicality was high on my list of considerations as well. Sometimes life intervenes and plans change, so it was important to have an undergraduate major with a high level of employability. The flexibility and rigor of ILR provides options with respect to employment after graduation, even without a graduate degree. Cornell also offers 100% yellow-ribbon match for its undergraduate GI Bill students. This made attendance a practical reality financially. The student services provided by ILR are extremely helpful and made the transfer process seamless.
I continue to discover reasons to love Cornell. I have had the privilege to be lectured by experts, participated in a study featured on NPR, and become the president of the Undergraduate Veterans Association in the last year. The University really makes me feel like I am limited only by my own ambition. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com with any questions.
Patrick O'Neal, U.S. Navy
In his final semester at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Patrick O’Neal ’19 is passionate about recruiting veterans to Cornell. Prior to Cornell, Patrick, a Sacramento native, spent six years in the US Navy as a Search and Rescues Helicopter Crew Chief.
After separating from the navy in August of 2013, Patrick spent the next two years undergoing surgery and rehabilitation from injuries suffered during his enlistment. Following his recovery, Patrick decided to attend college.
“I‘d never been good at school. I have dyslexia and it made things very hard. In fact, my high school GPA was something around a 2.1. I made up my mind that I was going to do it and apply the same work ethic that I used in the military.”
After attending community college for two years, Patrick graduated Phi Theta Kappa from the College of San Mateo with an Associate’s Degree in Communication in May of 2017. Following graduation, Patrick transferred to Cornell.
“It was crazy! I never imagined that I would attend one of the greatest universities in the world.”
Patrick hit the ground running at Cornell by making the dean’s list every semester. Eventually, Patrick became the President of the Cornell Undergraduate Veterans Association and later an admissions intern working with veteran recruitment.
Patrick is passionate about getting the word out to veterans about Cornell. “I believe many student veterans are underselling their ability. They don’t think attending an Ivy is attainable and I am fighting to change that belief.”
Patrick will be the first in his family to graduate from college. After graduation, he hopes to begin a technology consulting role with one of the top firms in the US.
Alexandra Kemp, U.S. Navy
“I want veterans to know there is life after the military,” said Alexandra. “They need to know there are opportunities that aren’t being disclosed to them. Their experiences in the military have prepared them to succeed at an Ivy League university like Cornell, they just aren’t being informed. It's a shame that the majority of veterans never use their GI Bill or waste their hard-earned benefits on ‘for-profit’ schools. Non-profit organizations like Warrior-Scholar Project, Service2School, and many others were created by veterans for veterans to provide transition support. Not to mention the incredibly strong networking groups they become a part of for the rest of their lives.”
Kemp was one of five student veterans who participated in Cornell University’s first Veterans Summer Bridge Program. The program was designed to support veterans to pursue a world-class education and earn a Cornell degree. It consists of three tuition-free credit-bearing courses, including a Strategies for College Success for Veterans course, and several community-building activities in collaboration with CUVA. She encourages veterans to apply to Cornell, and if accepted they can expect a strong foundation to build on through their academic program, and the opportunity to become a trailblazer in the efforts to recruit more veterans to Cornell. She hopes to empower veterans to take that leap now, not later.
Chris Gyurgyik, U.S. Marine Corps
One important aspect Chris learned during his transition from the military to higher education is to keep on pushing. The stressors of being an undergraduate student (while vastly different from the military lifestyle) are still barriers from achieving one’s goal. It is important to research the myriad of resources offered to veterans both on- and off-campus. Currently, Chris is pursuing an undergraduate degree in computer science and is a member of the Aerial Robotics electrical team.
Luke Opyd, U.S. Navy
David Outlaw, U.S. Navy
David Outlaw is from Natchitoches, Louisiana and is a senior at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. David, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, served as a logistics specialist on a nuclear-powered submarine in Hawaii and went on to manage a supply detachment in Italy.
After hanging up his uniform and transitioning to Cornell, David joined Starwood Hotels and Resorts for multiple internship and externship experiences in operations, including the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, The Westin New York at Times Square, The St. Regis San Francisco and The St. Regis New York. He currently serves as the co-founder and President of the Cornell Undergraduate Veterans Association.
Lisa Hart, U.S. Army
Seamus Murphy, U.S. Army