| Veteran Attributes Easy Transition to UST |
Marcus Walden, a 27-year-old veteran of the U.S. Navy, is in his second semester as a freshman at the University of St. Thomas. For Walden, St. Thomas stood out among other Houston colleges because of the prompt response from administrators, attention to student success and knowledge of veteran programs and needs.
Walden attended St. Thomas High School and knew he wanted to return to Houston after serving six years in the Navy — three years stationed in California and three years at sea near Japan, traveling Southeast Asia.
“The transition from being in the military to being a full-time civilian with endless free time was a big change,” Walden said. “The fact that everyone at UST is so personable is what made the transition happen. The personal attention made it doable.”
UST is a participant in the Yellow Ribbon program, which helps qualifying veterans pay tuition costs exceeding the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s usual cap for private schools. Many veterans attend UST with no tuition cost. The University was named a 2013 Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs Magazine in September.
With the help of Phillip Butcher, director of Transfer Admissions and Veteran Services, Walden appreciated that UST designates a staff member to aid veterans with their specific needs.
“It’s good to know that there is somebody to help if I have a question about my GI Bill benefits or anything,” Walden said. “I can email Phil and have a response within a day or two. Having a resource like Phil is a great thing, and all the faculty really want to help each person succeed. I’ve never felt alienated or like a number. They really want me to do well and learn the subject.”
Walden is a double major in environmental science, on the teaching track, and theology. Planning to teach children the origin of foods and the value of the environment, Walden encourages people to understand what they are eating.
“It’s good to learn about the environment, and, since we’re cooped up in the city, kids nowadays don’t know things like french fries come from potatoes and that those don’t grow on trees,” Walden said. “Because everything is so processed and pre-packaged, people are starting to lose touch with where things come from.”
Also a proponent for educating the whole person, Walden supports UST as a liberal arts school that welcomes all faiths. He said the diversity in his Introduction to Catholicism class helped deepen his understanding of his Catholic faith.
“Most people in my class weren’t Catholic, so we had to tackle that question from a broader range,” Walden said. “It brought up more conversation, dialogue and education. Whether or not they are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or Muslim doesn’t matter. It’s about loving my neighbor as myself.”
Walden plans to graduate in 2016 and gives gratitude to UST for understanding his needs and making the transition to collegiate life seamless.