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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

UNCP honors graduating veterans at special event

UNC Pembroke honored its graduating veterans on December 4 in a special Student Veterans Recognition ceremony. Twenty-one veterans received honor cords to be worn with their regalia at commencement from Chancellor Kyle R. Carter.

Graduating veterans

“Thank you for your service to this country, and thank you for choosing UNCP,” Chancellor Carter said. “You have improved our campus in many ways.”

“I am extremely proud that this institution has been recognized military friendly for five consecutive years,” he said. “This institution has had your back. We are committed to helping veterans find their career path and succeed.”

UNCP’s service to veterans earned it honors in three “military friendly” publications including U.S. News and World Reports’ “Best Colleges for Veterans.”

A retired colonel, Mike Clawson is the coordinator of Military and Veterans Services at UNCP. He said the transition from military to college can be difficult.

“We move from a very structured environment where you work in teams to a place where freedom and individualism reigns,” Clawson said. “The things that made you successful in the military – leadership, diversity, teamwork and discipline – are things that your fellow students have not experienced yet.”

“You add a lot of value to UNCP’s classrooms, and we are proud to call you alumni,” he said.

Student-veterans are a diverse group with different needs when it comes to higher education. Some at the ceremony were not even veterans.

Dawu Bowman is an active duty first lieutenant in the Army who was deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. “It took be about a year and a half at UNCP to finish my degree in criminal justice,” Bowman said. “That was the UNCP part; It took eight years total.”

Gavin Lowry, who is a Pembroke native, worked for Clawson in the Office for Veteran and Military Services helping other vets. He needed a little help at first.

“I loved it here,” Lowry said. “In every class, there are always other vets to talk to. It makes it easier.”

Alolphus Thomas, a Gulf War era veteran, earned a Master of Public Administration degree, and found that UNCP’s flexibility suited his needs.

“I miss the military because there were no gray areas there,” Thomas said. “I took about half my classes online and the rest on Fort Bragg. There were some late nights.”

On Friday, December 6, at Graduate Winter Commencement and Saturday, December 7, at Undergraduate Winter Commencement, these 21 veterans and active duty service men and women will join more than 500 other graduates in celebrating. The red, white and blue honor cords and their experiences serving their country make them exceptional UNCP graduates.

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