UW-Green Bay helps veteran transition from soldier to student

spude-top-storyIt is hard to imagine that someone who went through extensive physical and mental training, and served in high-stress situations, would be intimidated by a computer and keyboard.

But for Jared Spude, a Political Science and Public Administration major, who served four years of active duty with the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, and many other veterans who return to a University setting, that was the case.

“Being in the Army for four years and then coming back to school and thinking about writing papers scared the daylights out of me,” he said.

Originally from Brussels, Wis., Spude graduated from Southern Door High School in 2008 and immediately joined the Army. After serving two years at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and completing secondary job training, he was deployed to the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan from August 2010 to 2011.

Spude left active duty in November 2011 and started at UW-Green Bay just two months later. He says the welcoming nature of the UW-Green Bay campus community helped to make him feel at home.

“This surrounding community and the faculty and staff here care about their veterans and are super supportive of us coming back to school,” he said. “I have had nothing but positive interactions here as I transitioned from warrior to student.”

That nurturing environment and stepped-up services for veterans are among the reasons UW-Green Bay was named a “Military Friendly School” for the fifth consecutive year in 2013. UWGB dedicated the new “At Ease Veterans Lounge,” just last year for studying and socializing.

Campus location was one of Spude’s main criteria when he chose UW-Green Bay. He found UW-Green Bay’s atmosphere reminded him of his Door County home.

“It’s set in a beautiful natural environment that makes you feel part of the great peninsula that we grew up in yet its a stone’s throw from the legendary city of Green Bay,” he said, “It is far enough from home to get the great ‘college’ experience and grow as an individual but close enough to make it home for the holidays!”

Spude said when he returned, he had anxiety about interacting with other students and getting back into the academic environment. His first class upon returning was Education 295 with instructor Kim Desotell. The class involved working with the Phuture Phoenix program, which helps fifth-grade students see the value in a college education. While nervous about returning to the classroom, Spude said after that class he knew he’d made the right decision.

“I can tell you after one class I knew I was meant to be here at UWGB,” he said. “I couldn’t have had a better first teacher than Kim. She was so welcoming, comforting and helpful. As I got more involved with that program, the people I worked with have been incredible mentors and friends guiding me and helping me as I progressed through college. I owe them a lot.”

Spude has been involved with the Phuture Phoenix program ever since. This semester he also serves as a peer mentor as part of the First Year Seminar program, and served on many committees, including the Student Representative to the UW-Green Bay Founders Board and Dean of Professional Studies student advisory board. He is also currently working with a political science group to found a capstone project. Outside of school, he teaches joint forward observers at the Wisconsin Military Academy in Fort McCoy, Wis. and serves in the National Guard.

There is one group that helped to make his transition even easier: his family.

“I am lucky; I have a great family that has always supported me and my endeavors and a loving wife who has always stood by my side. Not everyone has that.”

Spude plans to graduate in May 2015 and get a position in city government or management.

“I have always been a small town guy that wants to make a difference. I joined the service to make a difference, participate in the organizations I do to make a difference on campus and in the community and want to get into a field of work that positively influences people.”

Spude is confident that his choice of school will help him get there.

“It is has big college potential with a small town, safe, learning environment dedicated 100 percent to making students successful. I would not want to be going to school anywhere else!”

– Story by Katelyn Staaben ’15, editorial intern, Office of Marketing and University Communication