Saint Leo Provides Strong Student-Veteran Community

November 09, 2016

Before student-veteran James Campbell enrolled at Saint Leo University, he looked at the University of South Florida, the University of Central Florida, and other schools. But when he chose where to pursue his bachelor’s degree in computer science, he was drawn to Saint Leo’s personal attention and small class sizes.

“The faculty at Saint Leo really get it,” Campbell said. “They understand the veteran perspective. Although veterans have faced challenges, they add value to the classroom. They have real-life experiences to share. For instance, I have combat experience, but having worked for a government agency, I have corporate experience, too.”

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As a computer science major, he learns from other students “who have been coding since they were 14 years old.” In turn, he helps them with questions about résumés, work life, and other issues.

Campbell had served in the U.S. Navy for six years, reaching the rank of petty officer first class. During those years, he worked in intelligence, as a Chinese linguist. To prepare for that role, he earned his associate degree from the Defense Language Institute and completed intense language training at the University of Hawaii.

He was inspired to join the Navy by his family history. His grandfather was also a Navy man and had served in the Pacific and the Atlantic during World War II, including the D-Day invasion.

Today, Campbell balances life as a single dad (he has two sons, Dylan and Elliott), a husband-to-be (he and his girlfriend, Alanna, were engaged on a recent Saint Leo trip to Great Britain and France), a member of the Tampa Bay Foreign Relations Committee, and a student. He also serves in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

He appreciates the support he receives from Saint Leo and community atmosphere.

Pamela -Martis

“The military community at Saint Leo is strong. I found it is easy to find other veterans here, and we help each other out,” Campbell said. “There are so many resources available to us. In particular Pamela Martis (pictured) in the Office of Military Affairs and Services helped me with the VA. Right off the bat, I told her I had issues, and she networked and cut through the red tape. Networking is one of the most important things you can do as a veteran, and it certainly helps to have people like Pamela on our side.”

He also finds that his fellow veterans offer a critical support system. “I’m here for them, and I know other veterans are here for me as well. We support each other no matter what—through the good and bad. We have a good sense of community.”

He admits that the curriculum is challenging, and his life is busy: “As a single father, a student-veteran, and an adult student, I definitely have a lot on my plate. Some people live paycheck to paycheck; I live minute to minute. Without community and networking, I would have much more difficulty staying afloat.  Saint Leo has a solid veteran presence and is on track to have the only recognized chapter of the national veteran fraternity Omega Delta Sigma in the state of Florida.  But we don’t need Greek letters to tell us that we have a bond.”

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What’s next for him? After he finishes his bachelor’s degree, we would like to use that, along with his language expertise and security clearance, to work for another government agency. “I’m always eager to learn from my experiences and ready for a new opportunities.”

His advice to other military veterans? “Seek out a strong community, use the resources available to you, and choose opportunities that will build you up.”