The Military College of South Carolina is, in addition to being a leadership laboratory for the Corps of Cadets, where many former service members choose to complete or continue their education.
An integral part of The Citadel’s support for those students is the Veteran Student Success Center (VSSC), open to both day and evening veteran students.
In addition to supporting academics, one of the VSSC’s primary missions is to foster social interaction and community-building for veterans on campus.
These things would not be possible without the Veteran Services Coordinator, Jesse Brooks; he also assists the school’s certifying official.
Brooks, one of The Citadel’s many student veterans, is also a full-time employee. He processes students’ VA Education Benefits, while also planning, coordinating and collaborating on events for veterans.
If that weren’t enough, Brooks also serves as the advisor for The Citadel’s Student Veteran Association, which also works to help further veteran initiatives, while building relationships both on and off campus.
When he’s not in the VSSC, Brooks is working towards completing a Master’s of Education in Higher Education Leadership.
“When I am not at working here or at home doing school work, I enjoy spending my time with my daughters, Adalyn and Kayla. They were a big driving force for me to continue my education and to get my degree, just so I could hope to be a good example for them. I always tell them to question things until they are satisfied learning about it, and to go in with as much interest as possible.”Jesse Brooks, USN (Ret.), Citadel Class of 2020
Learn more about the former Navy nuclear machinist mate here:
When did you retire from service? Did you come to The Citadel immediately after? If not, what did you do between?
I honorably discharged in 2014. Prior to discharging I had already had a job lined up in Atlanta, GA, at a natural gas plant. I worked there for three years before deciding I needed a career change and to go to college. I initially went to pursue a Mechanical Engineering degree; but, after several life events, I realized what I really wanted to do was help people. It was at that point I transferred to The Citadel and began to work on my B.A. in Psychology.
How did you hear about The Citadel, especially being from Hawaii? Where did you earn your undergrad?
So I am a military brat. I was born in Honolulu, lived in San Antonio, and finished middle school in Germantown, OH (about an hour north of Cincinnati). I first heard about The Citadel when I was stationed here, from 2010-2012, when I was going through the Navy’s Nuclear Training Pipeline. When my buddies and I would go downtown on the weekends, we would always see the cadets walking around, and we just ended up chatting with a couple of them. We were just asking each other about The Citadel, being in the military and enjoying conversing.
What do you hope to use your M.Ed. for after graduation? When do you expect to graduate?
I plan on using my M.Ed. to move up into high executive type positions within an institution. Ideally, I would love to become a department head of veteran/military affairs/services because this is a demographic of students and people in general that I enjoy working with and for. I expect to graduate in Fall 2021, if everything goes to plan.
What does it mean to you, being able to help other veterans earn degrees and to be part of a community here on campus?
Helping veterans, to me, is the very least I can do for these people. Regardless, if someone does one year or retires, these people made a sacrifice that I will always be grateful for. I grew up in a military family, these are the people that I am used to. Any one of them would drop whatever they are doing to help out someone else. I just want to be that person to help them.
What’s your favorite part of your job or The Citadel as a whole?
My favorite part of my job is when I can just take a small break from the computer and talk to a student. Doesn’t have to be advising, counseling, about school, but I usually bring the conversation back around to how things are going here, any issues with classes or the VA and then just let them know that if they need help to reach out.
What I enjoy most at The Citadel, especially as a student, is the atmosphere. I feel had I gone to any other college, I would have been less motivated to do the work. At The Citadel, there is this feeling of discipline and structure that is so reminiscent of the military, that I knew I could do nothing but succeed.
Do you ever interact with cadets? If so, how? Do you ever give advice or support to those planning to go into the military after graduation?
I do interact with cadets, less now, than when I was in my undergrad, but I still interact with those who are using VA Education Benefits. I never really “advised” many cadets unless they were wanting to go into the Navy, and especially if they were wanting to go into the Nuclear Program. I feel like I know enough about those two to give a cadet enough information. Regardless, I would (and still do) support those who plan on joining the military. To me there is nothing more selfless you can do than to serve your country, in peace or war.