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From Iraq to Georgetown

  • News Image
    Will Molidor is one of several veterans who have enrolled at Southwestern this year thanks to assistance from the new GI Bill (Photo by Paige Curtis).
  • News Image
    Veteran Chris Whitlock is studying history at Southwestern and hopes to become a professor some day (Photo by Paige Curtis).
  • News Image
    Veteran Gary Romriel is studying philosophy at Southwestern (Photo by Paige Curtis).

Veterans use new GI Bill to attend Southwestern

For many students who come to Southwestern, getting used to living in a dorm can be difficult.

It wasn’t for Will Molidor, though.

Before coming to Southwestern, Molidor had already spent four years living in barracks as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He also spent 13 months in Antarctica doing contract work as a firefighter.

Molidor is one of the first students to attend Southwestern through the new Post-September 11th G.I. Bill that enables veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to attend college after returning home. In addition to tuition, the bill provides for books and a monthly housing allowance. For veterans attending private institutions, the bill will cover tuition that matches the cost of the most expensive in-state public university.

Molidor said he chose to attend Southwestern after returning to Austin and spending a year taking courses at ACC. He was considering applying to Columbia when several friends of his mentioned Southwestern. “I heard a lot of good things from them, plus it was close to Austin. I looked into it and it felt like the right fit.”

Molidor is one of several veterans who are attending Southwestern this year. Chris Whitlock, a history major who served as an aviation electronics technician for five years, said what drew him to Southwestern University was the small class sizes and sense of community. He is considering several options after graduating next spring. “I would like to apply to the Ph.D. program at Cornell so I can teach,” he said. “I’m especially interested in African history and Roman history. Another option I’m thinking about is reactivating into the military as an officer.”

Gary Romriel also plans to pursue a Ph.D., most likely in philosophy. He came to Southwestern this year after serving four years in the military as an infantry machine gunner. During this time he sustained several serious injuries and became accustomed to carrying at least 250 pounds of equipment and armor.

Romriel hopes to attend graduate school in-state so he can remain close to his ranch in Hutto, where he lives with his family. He says his ideal career after graduating would be to operate his own business. “I’d like to work for myself someday. I learned to be very efficient in the military so sometimes it’s hard for me to work under civilian management that may not be as disciplined.”

Transitioning from the discipline of military life to student life may seem daunting to some. However, Romriel explains that it hasn’t been so bad. While he admits that he occasionally has difficulty understanding his younger civilian classmates and vice-versa, his overall experience has been good. Both Whitlock and Molidor agree.

“I was given a lot of respect when people found out I had been in the military,” Whitlock said. “Several people have even thanked me for my service.”

- Paige Curtis