Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down, virtually, with Military Veteran and CGU Student, Nael Rogers (they, them, theirs.) I wanted to find out a little more about their life and experiences, as a Veteran, student, and deeply-devoted family person.
Nael is originally from Chicago and arrived at CGU in Fall of 2017, seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in African American Literature.
Nael did their undergraduate work at Chicago State, obtaining a BA in English literature, but originally started with a major in Musical Theater and Vocal Performance, having once considered attending the Philadelphia School of Arts.
Nael was introduced to ROTC in high school; they liked the uniformity and discipline, which eventually led to them considering the Marines because of the history of that branch in the service. Ultimately, Nael went with the Army because they liked the choice of duty stations. Germany was their first choice and where they ended up on their first tour of duty. Being stationed in Germany gave Nael the opportunity to do something they always wanted to do, travel!
Nael's father was supportive of their decision, to join the Army. Their mother was worried and more hesitant, but she trusted Nael's decisions. Nael's initial goals were to get good grades, travel, and get out of the hood, see some things, and learn some new skills. Aside from learning about water purification and water treatment, Nael gained valuable experience learning about life and meeting new people, while becoming a disciplined and structured soldier during their time in the military. These skills would help them on their journey as student, as well as their journey as a human being, navigating life, as all of us have to learn and do.
When I asked Nael how they decided on Claremont Graduate University they relayed a somewhat bumpy, but interesting tale. Nael's dream schools were East Coast schools, however their wife of almost 2 years, Candice, wanted a warmer climate, so they compromised. Nael had some UCs on the list, but didn't think they would get any work done if they chose UCLA, still Nael remained interested in the California area. Nael had no idea where Claremont was, but when they began to research the 7Cs they realized that putting themselves in a more remote type of location, where they didn't know anyone, would be a perfect way to enjoy small, intimate classrooms, and have the ability to focus on their studies.
Nael served in the United States Army and National Guard, active duty Army from July of 1999-June of 2002. At that point, they were National Guard Reserve until October of 2006.
"63 Juliet" is the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty; that's job title for us civilians) in which Nael started their U.S. Army career. While deployed to Macedonia/Bosnia with NATO forces to continue rebuilding after the war, Nael was tasked with retrieving and logging in vehicles shipped to Greece. Nael joked that they liked the work, but not the occasional shocks that were a hazard of the job. Their next move was to PAC Office as an administrative assistant. Finishing up, in the National Guard, Nael went in as a Retention NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) and trained to become a Sergeant in human resources, staying there for the remainder of their time.
Nael was stationed in Germany for a few years, outside of Frankfort, and spent all of their active duty time there as a permanent duty station. They've also had a deployment to Italy, assisting a unit that was deploying to Iraq by keeping up on their mission and logistics.
Some of the best experiences Nael spoke of, when discussing their time in the military, were meeting forever family and learning that family isn't always about blood. There is the family that you learn to love and grow with, meeting people from all over the world and the States, and still calling each other brothers and sisters, your Army Family.
Nael expects to graduate within 3 years with their PhD in English. They plan to work as an English Professor, or remain in Student Services where they previously worked as an academic advisor. Nael would also love to work for the Department of Veteran's Affairs, giving back to other veterans.
Nael says some of their finest experiences at CGU have been meeting people, working in Student Services, and learning from staff. They love being in the classroom, learning from Dr. Moore, Dr. Perkins, and other amazing professors. Meeting other students and seeing brilliant minds at work has been another excellent expereinece. Nael also noted that they find the beauty of the CGU campus to be very calming.
When I asked Nael to name some things they enjoyed, they responded that they have a great affinity for Beats headphones, the guitar they no longer know how to play, but now have time to play (don't we all in these unprecedented times), water; they love water, music, and film.
I asked Nael what some of their best advice for Veteran students would be: Nael said talk to people and utilize services that are offered. They understand that it's hard to open up and talk about combat, deployment issues, and that Veterans are sometimes seen as reclusive. Nael believes everyone will gain something by taking advantage of all the services that are offered through CGU.
Nael loves to smile and says they are "cool people" once you get to know them (which I will attest to, from personal experience), even if they are shy and observant, at first; they do like to connect and they invite you to come up and say hi if you ever see them around.
Author introduction: Amy Martinez-Hernandez (she, her, hers) is employed in the Finance and Administration Office at CGU as the Account Specialist, Collections, and Third-Party Coordinator. Amy worked at CGU from 2010-2013 and returned in 2014. She loves to see students and encourages you to stop by Harper East 121 whenever things get back to normal, in the interim, she is available for Skype and Zoom appointments. In her free time Amy is a community activist, who enjoys spending time with her 3 daughters, two sons-in-law, her only grandson, and her friends, working out, reading, and playing the violin.