Can you tell us about your military background and your path to attending college?
I joined the United States Marine Corps at age 17 after completing a semester of college. During my military career, I took college courses only sporadically due to the demanding operational requirements of my job. I have always been a non-traditional student, balancing my career and academics simultaneously.
What are the three most important attributes or characteristics a veteran should consider when selecting a university experience and why?
- Reputation - It is important to consider the university's academic reputation, employer outreach, and support system for veterans.
- Veteran Support - Look for a university with a veteran's affairs office on campus. At Rutgers, there is an Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services. Ann Treadaway and her superior leadership team support student veterans with a variety of programs.
- Diversity - Consider a university that supports and encourages diversity and inclusion. Rutgers University is the most diverse academic institution I have attended in my entire academic career, and that was important to me.
How important is a university's sense of community for veterans when deciding on a college?
A sense of community is extremely important, both on- and off-campus. Select a university with community involvement opportunities and strategic partners to strengthen the outreach.
How does the GI Bill influence a veteran or service members higher education decisions?
The GI Bill is extremely influential as it helps to alleviate the financial burden associated with attending college. A veteran's affairs office can assist in this regard as well, by helping to find and interpret the applicable programs available.
What advice would you give students who don't believe they can attend college as a veteran?
I would advise a veteran to visit a college campus like Rutgers and engage with other student veterans who are currently attending that school. You will be able to feel, in an academic setting, the camaraderie once experienced in the military.
What advice would you give to a student who is a veteran and considering attending college and is in the first stages of the college search?
I would recommend assessing the college's student veteran outreach, and the support that is available to this unique population. In addition, I would have the university evaluate your military experience. Ask if any of the experience/education translates into college credits.
What are some of the ways family and friends can support student veterans during this time of transition?
Family and friends need to support the veteran as they would any student entering academia for the first time. There will be many long nights of studying and completing homework assignments. However, the end result will be beneficial. As veterans, we have served to help others, and this is a unique opportunity to invest in our own human capital.
Wil WilliamsonDirector of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial
Wil Williamson is a retired United States Marine and the current Director of Veterans Initiatives for Prudential Financial. While serving in the Marine Corps, he attended the School of Infantry, Communications and Electronics School, and Recruiter's School. During his 21 years of service, he deployed to several countries including Haiti and Somalia, where he assisted in humanitarian efforts. Wil received the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Recruiting Ribbon, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Wil joined Prudential Financial in 2015 and worked in Staffing Organization and Diversity Recruiting for one year before moving into his current role in Veterans Initiatives. He is earning a bachelor of science in Labor Studies and Employment Relations from the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick, N.J.