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Veterans find home in agricultureVeterans find home in agriculture

Military and Veteran Success Center advocates help veterans seeking careers in agriculture.

November 14, 2023

4 Min Read
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FOR COUNTRY: U.S. military veterans who have served their country and are preparing for careers in agriculture and other fields at UNL can find assistance in the often difficult transition from military to college life through advocates for the Military and Veteran Success Center. Curt Arens

by Charlotte Brockman

Nicholas Wolcott has always been eager to serve his country. He joined the U.S. Army infantry in 2010, fearful the war in Afghanistan would end before he had his chance to serve overseas. After being stationed in Alaska, he was deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

During that year, he worked with Special Forces, which inspired him to try out and begin his career on the inside of Army Special Forces — that elite group of soldiers. Throughout his time in Special Forces, he worked across the globe with a freefall team and as a communications instructor.

Upon his retirement from Special Forces in December 2022, Wolcott moved to Nebraska to pursue his lifelong interest in agriculture.

The choice to serve your country is one that comes with sacrifice and a desire to protect American freedoms. These freedoms are built on the values and traditions of hard work, service and building a community. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln cherishes its values and traditions.

From cheering on the football team to saluting American troops, Nebraska students understand the importance of community. At UNL, faculty and students are working with the Military and Veteran Success Center to build a unique community that supports students’ transition from military to civilian life for veterans like Wolcott, while also building important career foundations.

Military transition at UNL

The Military and Veteran Success Center aims to help students navigate college life in and out of the classroom. In addition to a dedicated staff and peer leaders, the center recently launched the Military Community Advocate Program at UNL.

The program, originating at Ohio State University, made its way to Nebraska to better support veteran and military student development. This program operates by placing a student to act as an advocate in the colleges and programs to make the mission of helping students transition into college life personal.

Joe Brownell, executive director of the Military and Veteran Success Center, explains, “By having individuals out in different organizations, they can multiply our mission, and bring back ideas and needs of students.”

The community advocates are tasked with making the hard and sometimes lonely transition into student life easier. This includes reaching out to peers and planning events that include homecoming tailgates, the Veterans Day parade, and the march of the game ball from the University of Iowa to UNL — all in the hopes of building a community that honors service and gives students purpose.

This new program has placed six advocates throughout the university, including two who serve in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Building community

The transition from military service to student life can be incredibly lonely. Senior Veterinary Sciences student Jenalee Wimer has served as an advocate for her peers by serving as the president of the Student Veterans of America chapter, and the military advocate for CASNR.

Wimer’s experience as a U.S. Marine and her current service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve program has made her aware of the challenges that come with bringing military experience to the classroom.

Wimer explains, “Even starting college at 20 years old, I felt a little disconnected from other students. Our main focus is to make sure veterans don’t feel alone.” As an advocate and officer, she along with others, is helping students thrive in a new environment.

At home in CASNR

For Wolcott, the choice to attend UNL came in pursuit of a place with strong values and traditions. In his search for a place to start an agricultural career from little experience, he has found Nebraska is where he can build skills and connections.

Wolcott is studying animal science with a production management emphasis, and he has been able to build a foundation for his future with opportunities to work in the beef industry. Wolcott also serves as the military advocate for the Engler Entrepreneurship Program within CASNR. Wolcott now plans to learn as much as he can from the experts in Nebraska and continue to work in the western U.S. after graduation.

“I always like to leave a place better than when I showed up, and I want to let other veterans know that when they come to UNL, there are people to help,” Wolcott says.

As the student advocate for Engler, he enjoys working outside of the conventional realm of creativity and is looking for ways to encourage other veterans to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset in the civilian world.

Learn more about the UNL Military and Veteran Success Center at vetsuccess.unl.edu.

Brockman writes from Lincoln, Neb.

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