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Salute to University’s veterans

November 10, 2014

On Veterans Day, we recognize and honor the commitment of University of Rochester students, faculty, and staff who serve or have served in our nation’s armed services.

This year, there are more than 80 veteran students enrolled at the University. These are a few of their stories.

Mark Constable ’16

portrait of Mark ConstableFor Mark Constable, college seemed out of reach financially. That’s why at 19, the Le Roy, N.Y., native joined the Navy.

For seven years, Constable served his country—most of the time away from it. His training and duties took him around the world, from Australia to Spain, Nova Scotia to Somalia. As a Petty Officer, 2nd Class, he was tasked with logistics aboard the different ships, including inventory, arms security, fire-fighting drills, maintenance, and aviation supply.

Constable was deployed three times during his service with the Navy, each time to the Arabian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea region. “After several years, I found it was really arduous to be away from home so much of the time,” he recalls.

And so he returned to the States and decided to pursue his post-secondary education. Constable attended a community college in Pennsylvania before transferring to the University as a junior majoring in financial economics. “It’s a good program,” he says. “I can go the logistics route or choose accounting, maybe finance.”

Transitioning to university life has been mostly hassle-free for Constable, despite being older than most of his classmates. His teammates in the Ultimate Frisbee Club, for example, at first refused to believe that he’s 26-years-old. “It helps that I have a baby face,” he jokes.

Ultimately, serving his country was the right decision, providing Constable with access to an affordable education: “It’s because of the Navy that I have this great opportunity to go to school.”

Timothy Fezette ’16

portrait of Timothy FezetteLike many high school students, Timothy Fezette went directly to college after graduating. While studying at a nearby state school, the Saranac Lake, N.Y., native realized he wanted to do something different.

That’s when he discovered the U.S. Marine Corps. “As part of the 9th Communication Battalion, they introduced me to electronics and fiber optics,” he recalls.

Fezette served stateside from 1999 to 2004. Afterward he continued working with electronics, including alarm systems and satellite televisions. However, an injury from his time in the military made the work physically difficult. Then the 2008 recession hit.

“I decided to go back to college. I figured it was better to design and create small electronics than to fix them.” He earned an associate degree in engineering science before transferring to Rochester as a junior in The Institute of Optics.

The transition has presented Fezette with new challenges. “Coming here is like jumping into the deep end of optics,” he says. As a non-traditional student, Fezette faces additional hurdles, such as being much older than some of his classmates and making sure his credits transfer between institutions.

But with a small program and increasing job opportunities in his field, Fezette remains optimistic about his future in optics.

Jacob Bettilyon ’16

portrait of Jacob Bettilyon“I felt like I had a duty to serve my country before going to college,” says Jacob Bettilyon, from Brockport, N.Y. So that’s just what he did.

Bettilyon joined the U.S. Marine Corps right after graduating high school in 2007. He served for five years as a sergeant in the infantry of two different units: 1st FAST (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Company) and 1st Battalion 3rd Marines. During this time, he was deployed abroad three times—to Cuba, Spain, and Afghanistan.

“I traveled around the country and the world preparing for deployment,” says Bettilyon. He credits the experience with showing him how important it is to be educated.

After returning from Afghanistan, Bettilyon attended junior college in California for two years before transferring to the University to study international relations. “This is a great school, one that offers veterans lots of support and services. That was something I was specifically looking at when applying—and it’s one of the reasons I came back to Rochester.”

Rochester’s Commitment to Veterans

This Veterans Day, the Veteran and Military Family Services Office opened on the University’s River Campus.

The office is staffed by two full-time Veterans Association certified officials and provides support to veterans transitioning from military life to the classroom. Its staff coordinates with veterans and a number of on-campus services.

Rochester has seen a 50 percent increase in veteran students since 2010, according to Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid. With more veterans returning to civilian life, this initiative is more important than ever.

“We are proud to now provide veterans at the University with a centralized resource to better help them navigate the educational system and success after graduation,” says Burdick.

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Category: Student Life