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Student Spotlight

Woman smiling


Rashieka Barr

Branch: Army Veteran's Dependent
Degree: BSBA Innovation, Leadership and Entrepreneurship
Graduation: Fall 2020

What are your plans after graduation? 
After graduation I plan on growing my business, Grumpy Hen Innovations, LLC. My goal  is to add additional patents to my  portfolio while pursuing product licensing deals. 

What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies? 
I'm an inventor and I spend the majority of my free time in creative mode. My hobbies include, leather working, painting, cooking and indoor gardening.

 Anything else you want to say?
Thanks to all that have served.

Picture of WCU student John Hoover


John R. Hoover

Branch: U.S. Army Deep Sea Diver
Degree: Natural Resources Conservation and Management (BS)
Graduation: Spring 2021

What are your plans after graduation? 
I hope to work in federal service and out of doors, ideally with the USDA or the Department of the Interior.  I am still learning what all my options are, however I would prefer to continue to serve my community and nation.

What do you do in your off time? 
As the newly elected president of the WCU Student Veterans Association, I spend my off time bemoaning my fate, directing Soldiers is like herding cats, whether they are in or out of service.

Anything else you want to say?
WCU is a wonderful school, both it and the SVA have provided me with the perfect place to begin the next chapter of my life, while creating a community I care about.

Jeff Marcum


Jeff Marcum

Branch:  Air Force Veteran
Degree:  Masters of Project Management 
Graduation:  Summer 2019

What are your plans after graduation? 
After graduation I will continue to work in my position as a budget officer with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The skills I have gained in the Project Management curriculum are already helping me to provide better financial management of the department's numerous IT projects.  I have really enjoyed my experience in the program and appreciate the excellent faculty and fellow students who I have worked with over the past two years.

What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies? 
In my off time I enjoy reading, attending sporting events, travel, and the occasional game of golf. 

Anything else you want to say? 
I highly recommend the WCU Masters in Project Management program.  I feel like I have learned a great deal and was able to take away many practical tools that I can use in my job right away.  I would also like to thank the excellent support staff in Military Student Services who have made the journey so much easier.

Picture of Walter Colinders


Walter Colindres

Branch: Captain-US Army Air & Missile Defense Branch
Degree: Masters in Project Management (MPM)
Graduation: 2021

What are your plans after graduation?  
After obtaining my high-quality degree in Project Management from Western I plan to make the Major’s list, then put my newly acquired skills to work in the Air and Missile Defense Acquisition Corps or perhaps in the Missile Defense Test and Evaluation Command.

 What do you do in your off time?
 Being in the Army requires a lot of sacrifices and one of the most difficult one is being away from your family. When I do have some time off, I pack up and travel across-country with the wife and three boys on our travel trailer. Interesting fact: My family and I once drove from Anchorage, Alaska to Oklahoma, making our way through the amazing landscapes of the Canadian Yukon valley, Montana, and South Dakota. It only took us ten days!

Traveling, camping, visiting military historic sites, playing soccer, golfing, running, barbecuing and watching NFL/NBA games all day, and enjoying the good things life gives us.

Anything else you want to say?
There are so many Universities that provide online degrees to military students. I had the opportunity to attend many well-known Universities because of their sports and popularity. As a Hispanic, I selected Western Carolina because I believe in making college affordable and attainable for those that struggle to pay for college. Western is part of the North Carolina Promise to make college affordable and I love this movement and support it 100 percent. In addition, I have met amazing, funny and talented WCU alumni that lead the way in their career fields.

Picture of Maddison Reed


Maddison Reed

Branch: Army Dependent
Degree: interior design
Graduation: May 2020

What are your plans after graduation?
Work at a residential design firm, not sure where yet though.

What do you do in your off time? Hobbies?
Where do I begin? I love going on day trips to the mountains around Cullowhee. When I’m not on day trips though I like to just hang out maybe play some video games or watch some movies. I know so exciting right! My favorite is when I am back at home and my sister will text me “do you want to go to QT and get a slushee” that is my favorite hobby.

Anything else you would like to add?
I have been blessed with the military scholarships from the VA so I could pursue my dream of going to college for interior design. My mom, Ursula, went to Western so I knew that this was the college for me. And honestly I couldn’t have pictured myself at another college and been this happy with my experience! Western is GREAT! I am a Cat for life, GO CATS!!

Picture of Joseph Henry McKenzie


 Joseph Henry McKenzie

Branch: USMC
Degree: Philosophy/ Religion/ Nursing
Graduation: 2021

What are your plans after graduation?
Travel Nursing and eventually open a Family Practice.
What do you do in your off time? Hobbies?
Usually a lot of going to the gym or debating in the philosophy department.

Girl and her father smiling outside


Dallas Romano

Hometown: Jacksonville, NC
Branch: US Marine Dependent
Degree: Recreational Therapy

What are your plans after graduation?
In high school I always thought that I would go to college for criminal justice and forensic anthropology, however that soon changed. My dads’ friends was in an accident and sustained a severe spinal cord injury. I had always been close to him and his family and saw how it affected them. I soon realized that insurance did not pay for a lot of the equipment he needed so I did a fundraiser and managed to raise him and his family $16,000. I saw the way that his recreational therapists and physical therapists worked with him and that was really my inspiration. That was my deciding factor on what I wanted to do as a major.

What do you do in your off time? Hobbies?
I have played sports most of my life. I played soccer for my high school along with playing for a club team. I also played volleyball and was a cheerleader. 

Anything else you would like to add?
I have grown up all over the world. By the age of 5, I had lived in 4 different countries including Sri Lanka, Germany, and Greece. My dad served in the United States Marine Corps for 21 and a half years. He did 2 tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. My dad is truly my hero. He has inspired me to be the person I am today. He pushes me to do my best and to never give up.

Morgan McKay


Morgan McKay

Army National Guard Dependent
Degree: Communication Science and Disorders

What are your plans after graduation? 
Following graduation, I plan to use my degrees to practice in the field of speech-language pathology. I will be moving home to St. Augustine, FL. In school, we are currently rotating through various settings a speech-language pathologist may work: schools, clinics, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, or hospitals. Following graduation, I want to work with the adult population; however, I am unsure of which setting yet! I am considering a rehabilitation facility or a hospital. I look forward to applying all of the classes and supervised clinic opportunities into my future job and into my career as an SLP. 

What do you do in your off time? Hobbies? 
During free time, I enjoy doing anything outdoors. Being from St. Augustine, I love going to the beach or being out on the river. I moved to NC to attend graduate school and in my rare free time here, I enjoy hiking and appreciating the beautiful mountain views. I witnessed my first snow this past winter and had a lot of fun tubing! 

Man holding newspaper


Pat Gruner

Branch: USMC (Dependent)
Degree: BS Communication
Graduation: 2017
What are your plans after graduation?
After I graduated in August 2017 I started freelancing. After doing that for a good while (longer than I recommend) I found a full time position as a Lifestyles Writer for the Camp Lejeune Globe. I primarily cover veterans groups and other local events that are good for a profile and some photo ops. As of May, I was given the title of Managing Editor for the publication. That means I work more closely with the Marines in the public affairs office to get their stories, sports coverage and my own community pieces put into the weekly publication. It's a great environment and I'm surrounded with a culture I'm familiar with.
What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies?
Well, I don't get as much of that anymore. I'm not adverse to a long walk however. Either that or finding more media I can sink my teeth into. Movies, books, documentaries. All that nerd mumbo jumbo. It's great.
Anything else you would like to add? 
Western Carolina was one of the first places that felt like home to me and it's great to see this program that helps vets and dependents succeed continue to do that. I wasn't always the best student but Cullowhee was still a very special place to learn and grow. Mostly, focus on working hard. There are going to be people willing to help you learn after you graduate but your work ethic is what will determine how well you fit into a position. Keep grinding and be willing to listen. That's about the best way to get a leg up.

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