East Carolina University is known for its support of military students, and now it hopes to become just as well known for its support of military alumni.
The East Carolina Alumni Association is partnering with units across campus to form a chapter for those who have studied at ECU and served or continue to serve in the military. The association is working with both the Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps units and Student Veteran Services.
The chapter will serve a variety of populations, including veterans who came to ECU after serving, and graduates who entered the military after college, either through ROTC or independently.
The first step is to gather data and build a master list of military alumni. While any existing military alumni outreach has been fragmented, this effort would update information across the entire central alumni database.
“We’ve got to figure out a good way to make sure we’re getting to everyone,” said Nicole Jablonski, assistant director of Student Veteran Services. “We’re so close to so many military bases, there’s a big population we can pull from, we just have to find them.”
Accurate numbers for military alumni at ECU are hard to come by. Prospective students applying to ECU have an option to self-identify as military, which doesn’t always happen, and wasn’t always an option in the past. “It’s hard to identify all military students, and alumni numbers are even harder to get,” Jablonski said.
There are roughly 1,500 graduates of the ROTC program at ECU, around 1,200 from the Air Force detachment and more than 300 from the Army detachment.
“There’s a huge untapped potential there,” says Tom Shubert, who graduated from the Air Force ROTC program at ECU in 1974. He retired as a colonel after 30 years of service and now works with the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the Air Force. “What are these alumni doing now and what can they do to help current students?”
Shubert helped the Civil Air Patrol organize incentive flights for Air Force cadets at the Pitt-Greenville Airport in November. Many of the pilots were ECU alumni who showed students what it’s like to fly military aircraft. Shubert hopes the group will foster more experiences like this.
“I think military alumni would like to be more involved,” Shubert said. “I think they’d enjoy meeting other alumni, but I think they really want to engage with cadets and help them along their careers.”
Military alumni can provide valuable insight and guidance to students.
“A big thing when you leave the military is that you’ve lost your social network, and going to college and getting a degree can seem like an unattainable goal,” Jablonski said. “It can be helpful and motivating for students to see alumni who were once in their situation who have now gotten jobs or started businesses.”
One of the goals for the chapter is to host a military event as part of homecoming, as well as other events where alumni could mingle with students and network.
“This group could help alumni make connections with potential employers,” Jablonski said. “A lot of companies are interested with working with military alumni. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
“We need to put the call out, and when military alumni respond, we need to follow up,” Shubert said.
To find out more or get involved with the military alumni chapter, contact Assistant Director for Alumni Programs Lindsay Raymond-Weston at 252-328-1958 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit PirateAlumni.com/MilitaryAlumni.
By Jackie Drake