From service to student: Belmont veterans transition into college life
Like many Belmont students, Amanda Rogers and Brad Beardsley were nervous about their transition into college.
They’re preoccupied with getting enough convocation credits, finding jobs and internships and connecting with their peers.
But unlike most students, Beardsley and Rogers came to Belmont after years of serving in the military. They are just two of the 156 veterans who currently attend Belmont.
Rogers and Beardsley both said financial aid was a large part of why they chose to attend Belmont. As a Yellow Ribbon Program participant, Belmont will cover all of a student veteran’s school expenses that are not paid for through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
“I knew I made the right choice when I discovered how caring the staff was, the mindset of service the school instills in you, and the beautiful campus,” said Rogers.
Before attending Belmont, Rogers spent almost 10 years serving in the Navy. She enlisted right after high school, because she knew she wanted to go into the medical field, but her family could not afford to send her to college.
Rogers said she is extremely grateful for all the opportunities the Navy has given her.
“Here we are almost 13 years later, and the Navy has met and exceeded my expectations of providing me exhilarating medical training and practical opportunities, as well as providing me with a substantial amount of financial aid to further my medical training,” Rogers said.
In 2014, Rogers left active duty to pursue a nursing degree.
“I wanted to stay affiliated while attending college so I joined the reserves after active and I am currently attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron One out of San Diego, California,” she said.
Beardsley — who served in the National Guard for 6 years and spent 12 years in active duty with the army — has also stayed in the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I’m eligible for retirement in a year, and my wife has strongly encouraged that. But there’s still a pull, and there’s always a possibility that I have to go somewhere again,” he said.
Beardsley said his wife was a huge part of his decision to transition out of active duty.
“She had been working as a physician by my base, but she got a job offer here. It was a huge opportunity working at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and it was something she’d always dreamed of doing,” he said. “We kind of had a deal that whenever I was coming up on re-enlistment we’d talk about it, because it wasn’t one of those situations where she was stuck with whatever I do my whole life.’’
Beardsley is now studying business administration and hopes to work with international non-governmental organizations after completing his degree.
“I’ve been doing quite well, so that’s been pleasantly surprising,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge and the work, and realizing that I can still do this. I think that was a really intimidating question of ‘can I still do this? Am I too old to be taking all these credits and doing all these new concepts?’”
Rogers said the biggest challenge about attending Belmont was the age difference between herself and the traditional college student, but both Beardsley and Rogers credited the Bruin Vets organization with helping to make the transition into college easier.
“If you need help it’s always nice to reach out to the different veteran students here. Just for the same things that other students reach out to their friends about, like what professors are really good,” Beardsley said. “So we’re a really close network of being able to help each other out. And the school helps out with that, making sure we all meet each other.”
Kim Powell, a faculty member who serves as the adviser for Bruin Vets, said she loves working with the student veterans because they are such positive additions to the Belmont community.
“The veterans that we work with are very kind, and they are very warm and have huge hearts and want to still serve in some capacity,” she said.
“In their minds, a lot of times as they are coming to school, they’ve gotten out of the service so their next mission is to get their degree. So they go full-time and they are great students, they make great grades and they’re just fun to work with,” she said.
As for the rest of the Belmont community, Beardsley said he was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming attitude people at Belmont have toward veterans.
“You hear these horror stories in the military of all these kids hating the military and just yelling and screaming and there’s all these problems. That was one of the things I was really surprised by and have enjoyed about Belmont, is how generally welcoming everybody is,” he said.
Rogers also said she has felt welcome at Belmont, and mentioned her adviser, Dr. Tracy Johnson, who is also a veteran and has helped her throughout her time at the university.
“I am not sure what area of nursing I will work in after I graduate, but I know wherever it is Belmont will have set me up for success,” she said. “I will forever be thankful for everything Belmont has done for me so far and continues to do.”
Photos courtesy of the Belmont Office of Communications, Amanda Rogers and Brad Beardsley.