Newest MTSU graduating veterans await commencement, job market
After obtaining his master's degree in criminal justice from MTSU, Kenneth Weathers plans to continue being in the hiring process to become a Murfreesboro police officer.
Weathers, 39, of Murfreesboro, has been attending college off and on since 2000. He earned his bachelor's from MTSU in criminal justice. He started a family (daughter Hailey Weathers, 14, lives in Spring Hill, Tennessee). While serving in the military, he received a medical discharge after being hurt when deployed in Afghanistan.
At the 14th Graduating Veterans Stole Ceremony Thursday (Aug. 1) at MTSU, Weathers was among 15 students receiving their red stoles, which they can wear during the upcoming commencement ceremonies Saturday, Aug. 10, in Murphy Center. They were among a class of 33 student veterans and senior ROTC cadets who will be graduating.
"My plan was to return and get my master's," said Weathers, who was joined for the occasion by his girlfriend, Serita Lane of Murfreesboro. He resumed college in January 2018 "going with a full-time (academic) schedule the whole time so I could graduate in 18 months."
"It was high-intensity at the graduate level," Weathers said, "as far as reading, writing papers and studying for exams" while being a resident director in MTSU Housing and Residential Life (he was a resident assistant while an undergraduate).
Weathers said he "could not have done this without post 9/11 veterans' benefits, priority registration, not having to pay tuition (grace granted for veterans so they don't lose classes they had registered for), receiving a housing allowance and more. All these things came together, plus Dr. (Hilary) Miller and her team (in the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center)."
Prospective employers -- at least six representing four companies -- waited patiently to meet Antonio Brown, 26, a business administration major from Nashville, Tennessee.
At one point, Bob Hadaway with Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations in McMinnville, AIG human resources manager Mark Mitchell and Waffle House recruiting director Cristin Wittwer and area vice president Jeff Camp were back-to-back-to-back to talk to Brown.
"This was more than I expected," the sharply dressed Brown said of the corporate presence. "Sometimes you feel alone, but this experience shows somebody is there for you and we are appreciated."
Brown spent 5½ years in the U.S. Army, retiring in 2015 because of back (disc) injuries. He has been at MTSU since 2016, finding it "friendly. It's a big school with a small-school vibe. It has been easy to get around. Everybody, basically, has been a phone call away."
Joyce Carbaugh, 54, of Shelbyville is earning her bachelor's in child development and family studies. She said she did not realize she was eligible for benefits until three-fourths of the way through her degree.
"It was confusing (at first)," said Carbaugh, a retired U.S. Army staff sergeant. "It's a large campus, but I had a great adviser (Jennifer Austin). With my (college) finances, I will graduate debt-free, which I am super excited about."
Carbaugh will continue working at a friend's home for juvenile boys in Franklin.
Charles L. Moore Jr., executive director with the VA Veterans Benefits Administration's Nashville regional office, attended as did Mike Walsh, a former chair in the MTSU Department of Military Science and representing CENSIS, David Corlew with the Journey Home Project and representatives from L3 Harris in Nashville, among others.
Deb Sells, filling in for MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee (extended flight delay), told the honorees what a "huge impact" they made on campus and in the Daniels Center.
"I watched as you invested in the classroom," said Sells, vice president of Student Affairs and vice provost for Enrollment and Academic Services. "Veterans have all kinds of influence on other students. ... I've watched you on Facebook, reassuring others this is a good place to be. ... The fact you chose us changed us."
Sells asked a favor of the student veterans -- "spend time with the people who have helped you ... and saying thank you is really important," she said.
Keith M. Huber, senior adviser for veterans and leadership initiatives and a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, provided the welcome, introductions and closure to the event. He urged the students to attend graduation.
"It is one of those defining moments in life," Huber said. "... This is a significant accomplishment in the chaos (life) of transition (from military to college student to graduate in the workforce)."
Miller presented the student veterans with a commemorative alumni coin as they join nearly 140,000 alums once they graduate.
For more on the veterans center, which assists an average of 1,000 student veterans and family members, call 615-904-8347 or go to http://mtsu.edu/military.