Soldiering on to graduation, 62 vets in Class of 2012


Veterans and members of the Class of 2012 are acknowledged during Commencement at the Izod Center.

By Kenna Caprio

Fairleigh Dickinson University graduated its largest class of veterans yet on Tuesday, May 15.

This group of 62 veterans, “represents all branches of the military, who served in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq — all over the world,” says Jeffrey Dunn, assistant director of veteran student services and Iraq war veteran.

Lesseme “Sem” Ducatel, a veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, took a circuitous route to completing his education.

Dissatisfied with the typical college experience, the economics major left the first college he attended to backpack in Europe. When he returned home nine months later, he says, he still was deciding what to do with his life.

A neighbor suggested the military saying, “‘It will help you make up your mind about what you want to do,’” the 24-year-old Ducatel recalls. And so, he describes his decision to enlist in the Marines in 2006 as, “a happy accident.”

After being discharged in 2010, Ducatel realized he was now ready for school. Knowing that he wanted to attend school on the East Coast or the West Coast, he made a list of about “50 or 60 colleges along the coasts and then narrowed it down to 10,” the graduating senior says.

Fairleigh Dickinson University made the top ten. “I had in mind a trip across America to see all the colleges,” says Ducatel. “FDU was my second stop after Penn.”

He never made it past visiting two schools.

Already impressed with the University’s commitment to veterans education from a phone conversation with Ariel J. Luna — head of the University’s Office of Veterans Services — stepping onto campus solidified Ducatel’s feelings.

With help from the veterans office, Ducatel was able to easily translate his “scattered credits,” gather his transcripts and enroll.

“Sem is amazing because he came in and just flew through the program,” says Dunn.

Ducatel says his future will not be tied to the military, and that his “immediate plans are to simply get a job and assimilate myself into the working world. The military was a great experience but I think I should move on and experience other things.”

One of those “other things” Sem wants to experience is a financial services job. Though he has offers from J.P. Morgan and other banks, Sem’s sights are on a position with the Federal Reserve.

No matter the job he accepts, Sem is proud of his “hard work and scholastic journey.”

Dunn feels that pride too, regarding all of the veterans graduates. “It’s nice to see the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program make that American dream a reality for service members,” Dunn says.

In 2009, Fairleigh Dickinson University became one of twenty institutions nationally, and one of only two private institutions, to receive a grant award from Walmart and the American Council on Education (ACE) to further enhance its programs and services for veterans through the Office of Veterans Services. The University also has a Veterans Education Advisory Board served by faculty, staff and students and a Student Veterans Association. FDU now serves more veterans than any other independent university in New Jersey. "Like" their Facebook page today!

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

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