December 7, 2023
Strength in service
An institution with a rich Catholic Benedictine heritage, The College of St. Scholastica seeks to build and nurture a community that lives by its values. One common thread running through these values — community, respect, love of learning, hospitality and stewardship — is the sense of service, elevating others’ needs and strengthening the College as a whole. Individuals actually bring the concepts to life.
The College of St. Scholastica is proud to welcome and recognize military veterans, current and former military members, national guard and reserve members as an integral part of the College community. Their experiences in the military have equipped them with a unique set of skills and perspectives that enrich classrooms, academic programs and entire communities in countless ways. From 1943, when many nursing students were called overseas through the Cadet Corp Program, to today, St. Scholastica has experienced firsthand the many strengths veterans bring to the College.
To celebrate and honor the service members in the community, four students — Jon Whaley ’24, Macy Sunnarborg ’24, Daryl Baumann ’25 and Nick Wink ’25 — will offer a glimpse of what it looks like from their perspectives as Saints with unique journeys to the starting points of their academic careers. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks to learn more.
Supporting Our Veterans
The Veterans Resource Center (VRC) strives to provide resources and transition services to all military veterans, current and former military members, national guard and reserve members, and their families in a way that promotes the Benedictine values of respect, hospitality and community.
Growing up near Fort Benning, GA, Jon Whaley ’24 never pictured himself following in his father’s military footsteps. That all changed after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. “It made the decision for me,” Jon said. “I was more sure than ever of my decision to serve the country.” Jon joined the Army following his high school graduation, and just a year later, he was deployed to Afghanistan at age 19. He would go on to spend 12 years on active duty as a medic, serving in various parts of the world, before receiving medical retirement from wounds received in Afghanistan. “I did my job and came home,” he reflected.
Jon also never pictured himself over 1,300 miles from home at The College of St. Scholastica. However, after looking for a small college close to his wife’s family that offered a graduate program in PA Medicine, it was a no-brainer. Jon is receiving his second degree in Psychology from St. Scholastica and is hopeful to join the PA Medicine program following graduation this spring. He has spent the last few years actively participating in discussion and lab work in the psychology classrooms of Tower Hall.
In the classroom
Those very classrooms have provided ample opportunities for continued learning with and from fellow Saints. Jon’s classmates, traditional undergraduates, have been receptive of, and at times surprised by, the insights offered from 12 years of service. “There are a lot of misconceptions around the military,” Jon said. “But really, individuals of various backgrounds came together to share their individual and shared experiences in a way that felt comfortable and open.” Jon explained that his time in the military taught him far more than just the technical skills of being a medic; he also learned total open-mindedness and extreme patience.
Jon’s years of service have also taught discipline and dedication, qualities that have translated well in the academic setting. As Jon pursues future goals in medicine, these qualities will be advantageous. “In a way, you almost have a leg up.” Jon also recognized that his classmates have their own advantages. “They, too, have a leg up because they’re in it,” Jon further reflected with a grin, noting that his classmates are quick learners who often pick up new concepts faster than he does.
All of this is to say that Jon appreciates the diversity that all students bring to the classroom: “I recognize that I come from a different background than most others.” As in the military, at St. Scholastica, students of various backgrounds come together to share their individual experiences in a comfortable and open way.
Now, Jon continues his service in another capacity as a Veteran Affairs Work Study student in the Veteran Resource Center (VRC). He works alongside fellow staff members Jessica Johnston, director of Academic Access and Support, and Jack Lee, a military student support specialist, to support military-affiliated students. “The VRC staff deeply care and are there to support you in every way you need,” he noted. “We serve students from the beginning stages of admissions to crossing the finish line at graduation.”
In his role specifically, Jon works with interested students to ensure they understand and maximize potential military benefits. As both a recipient of services and a student worker, it is clear that Jon’s call to service extends beyond the service to his country. “I do what I can to support other students,” he shared.
The son of a Marine, Daryl Baumann ’25 grew up with the possibility of military service on his mind. After graduating from South High School in 2000, he started classes at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, focusing on the machine tool technician track until fall 2021. “Even though 9/11 was surely a motivational force to enlist, joining the military had been on my back burner since early high school. This was merely an inflection point in the direction of inevitability for me,” Daryl said.
Retiring in 2013, Daryl returned home as a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation New Dawn (OND). Slowly but surely, he re-entered civilian life, enjoying time with his wife and family. Daryl was able to stay home with his three sons while he found his footing again and decided on his path forward. “It took a while to find a new ‘normal,’” he shared. “I know there are things I experienced, things I saw, that will never leave me. The transition was hard, but I am thankful I was able to be with my kids and family during that time.”
Lessons in connection
Joining the military was like joining a new and diverse family. “All the recruits came from different backgrounds, locations, journeys,” Daryl said. “You have to connect fast because there is an immediate expectation to become a team and work together. It takes some time to get there and feel like you have real rapport, but you do.”
Through his tours and travels, Daryl honed his appreciation of and sensitivity to different cultures and perspectives. He learned some Arabic and studied the local customs, seeking ways to respectfully interact with the people he met. As the response to the presence of American troops and military outfits varied wildly, every day held a wide range of possibilities for conflict and connection.
While searching for the right fit to complete his bachelor’s degree, Daryl was drawn to The College of St. Scholastica because of the combination of a small, close-knit community and the course offerings. Living in Sandstone, MN, and commuting to campus for in-person classes can be challenging, but he enjoys spending time in the spaces in Tower Hall that have become especially meaningful. “I appreciate Jiimaan Abiwin, or ‘the Canoe Room.’ I am thankful that the College has provided a space dedicated to the culture of not only the Ojibwe people, but all nations,” Daryl explained. “Sitting under the stained glass window on the second floor of the library is also nice.”
A new mission
Although he studied German at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, where he completed an associate degree, Ojibwe language courses are one of the reasons he chose to transfer to St. Scholastica. As part of the new Global Sustainability and Justice Studies program, Daryl is also pursuing a minor in Native American Studies with a concentration on Indigenous Studies. Participating in and supporting the revitalization of Ojibwe culture is one of Daryl’s driving forces.
“As an Anishinaabe, it’s important to me to learn the language. There are only about 1,000 native Ojibwe speakers left, and most are more than 75 years old,” Daryl shared. “I want to be part of keeping the language and culture alive.”
Talking about his future plans, Daryl’s heart for advocacy is clear. “Next summer, I would love to intern at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe office in Duluth, doing whatever is needed,” Daryl said. “I want to help folks how I can, and even though I know I’m not that close to it yet, I want to be prepared to be an elder in the community. There is important work to do now, and I want to be part of it.”
For Macy Sunnarborg ’24, the journey to The College of St. Scholastica started with a simple conversation at the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard Base. She was intrigued by the possibility of enlisting as a way to afford college but has since realized she has found so much more than that: a potential lifelong calling. This conversation propelled Macy to higher education and a fulfilling United States Air Force career.
Since enlisting in March 2020 and completing basic training in July 2021, Macy has worked in the Aircraft Armament Systems unit. She takes pride in her work with the weapons systems on jets, which includes arming and disarming the systems before takeoffs. “This job is important on the base,” Macy noted.
Her hard work is noticed by colleagues as Macy has built trust and relationships as one of the few women in her unit. “There has been an increase in females from basic training lately, but working in a male-dominated environment can be hard.” Even in such an environment, Macy has managed to find a sense of community at the base. “I work with a bunch of dads,” she joked. “There’s a true sense of camaraderie.”
Finding community and flexibility
Macy looked for that same sense of community when searching for the right college where she could continue her education. She also sought flexibility in her schedule, especially since she still travels with the Air National Guard. A major in Business Management and a minor in Human Resource Management at St. Scholastica gave her all that and more.
In combination with her hybrid schedule, Macy has built close relationships with professors who understand her accommodations. “When deployed, school sometimes needs to take a back seat,” she shared. “Instructors have been understanding and have made it work for me.”
Macy also resonated with the Benedictine values of the College because of her military background. “The military values are integrity first, service before self and excellence in all you do,” she explained. “I think those values align well with the Benedictine values.”
Macy explained that military experience has helped her now that she’s in a college setting: “In the military, things come up that you must work through. In college, this gives you the perseverance and the grit to keep going and not quit.”
Supported as a Saint
In times that Macy finds herself in need of additional assistance at the College, she finds support through the Veterans Resource Center (VRC). She mentioned her experience working with Jack Lee, a military student support specialist: “Just knowing that there are people who know and understand what you’re going through is helpful.”
She encourages other veterans to reach out to Jack and the VRC. “Make sure you try to use all of the resources available to you,” Macy said. “Talking to people and learning from their experiences can help your experience; sometimes, people are afraid to reach out and show their ignorance about something. It’s worth it to do this together and help each other as we try to balance work, school, service and everything else.”
As Macy continues her educational journey, as well as her years of service in the Air Force, she looks forward to making the most impact she can. “I always want to move forward and never be stagnant,” she said.