Volgenau–Northrop Grumman Scholarship Supports Deserving Veteran
November 18, 2014 / by Martha Bushong
Today's military veterans attending college face many of the same problems typical students do—financial obligations, family pressures and difficult course work—as well as the additional challenge of transitioning from military to college life. But that hasn't prevented Danny Munoz from achieving academic success as a computer science major in George Mason University's Volgenau School of Engineering.
Before coming to George Mason, Munoz served as a Marine rifleman and was a machine gunner and intelligence analyst during the course of two deployments in Afghanistan. "I traveled to several countries and experienced many different cultures. Those experiences gave me a greater appreciation of my own childhood and for my life here in the United States," he says.
Growing up in Johnson City, a small town in upstate New York, in a single parent household with limited resources, Munoz says he had a difficult time figuring out where life was taking him. After high school, he attended Broome Community College, but it wasn't a good fit.
"I quickly stagnated," Munoz said. "I lacked direction, discipline and a support system to guide my decisions. I came close to accepting a life of mediocrity, but I wanted to set a good example for my younger sister and give her the role model that I never had, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps. The Marines gave me the discipline and self-confidence I needed to reach my potential."
Munoz met his girlfriend, Rachel, just prior to his last deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. "She became my support system and gave me the encouragement I needed to survive Afghanistan and college admissions essays," says Munoz.
After Munoz separated from the Marine Corps, Rachel wanted to move close to her family, so they established roots in Arlington, Va. He surveyed many schools in the area, and finally settled on Mason.
"At first, the decision was mostly financially based, but I quickly came to appreciate the ‘veteran-friendly' nature here at Mason," he says. "My transition from the battlefield to the classroom was difficult, but the support provided by Rachel, the Office of Military Services and scholarships have eased my transition and allowed me to flourish."
One such veteran-friendly organization is the Volgenau School of Engineering group Veteran Engineering and Technology Students, or VETS. In 2012, school administrators and corporate partner Northrup Grumman established this student group to help students help each other. Since the group's inception, Northrop Grumman has provided financial support as well as mentorship to the organization. This year, VETS and Northrop Grumman decided to use a portion of that support to assist Munoz.
Since the difference between achieving a "B" and an "A" is often a matter of a couple more hours of studying every week, Munoz says, the VETS scholarship will allow him to hit the books that much harder.
"This scholarship will provide enough financial stability so that I can focus more hours toward studying and maintaining my GPA," he says.
A verson of this story by Martha Bushong appeared in Mason News on Nov. 11, 2014.