Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

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OUE-Nicole Dawson

Nicole Dawson

Featured Stories

Veteran Nicole Dawson excelling at Ohio University Eastern

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio – Ohio University was recognized once again as a “Military Friendly School” by G. I. Jobs, according to a recent release by the magazine. The designation is awarded to the top colleges in the country that are doing the most to embrace military students, and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation.

This military friendly designation is compatible with the original mission of Ohio University’s regional campuses, including the Eastern Campus, which were created in large part to serve returning veterans of World War II.

One such veteran currently attending Ohio University’s Eastern Campus is Nicole Dawson, a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is a 1998 graduate of Martins Ferry High School and an eight-year Army veteran that includes a tour in Iraq in 2009-10. 

Ironically, Nikki first enrolled at Ohio University Eastern immediately after finishing high school with thoughts of becoming a teacher. “Looking back, I wasn’t ready to commit myself to the rigors of being a full-time college student,” she said. “Consequently, I struggled academically and before long decided to pursue other options in the workforce.”

Nikki later attended a technical school in the Pittsburgh area studying radiological technology before ending up in an Army recruiter’s office with a friend. “I went to the recruiter’s office to support my friend and had no intentions of enlisting,” she said. “I had actually considered joining the Army out of high school but did not meet the requirements due to medical reasons, so I figured it was not an option for me.”

However, Nikki quickly discovered that the medical requirements for enlisting had changed. “We were a nation at war and the recruiter told me the requirements were not as stringent and that I was now eligible for service,” she said. “So, I jumped at the opportunity, joined the Army under the Delayed Entry Program in March of 2004, and left for basic training that October.” 

The Army first assigned Nikki to the 314th Military Intelligence Battalion, where she served as training NCO in the battalion training office, as well as a Spanish Linguist Section Leader in the International Crime and Narcotics division. 

In 2008, Nikki was re-assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Calvary Division where she held various positions as a Signals Intelligence Analyst including: Squad Leader, Intelligencer Oversight NCOIC (non-commissioned officer in charge), Shift Leader and Platoon Sergeant. 

Nikki met her future husband, Sgt. David Dawson, in San Antonio, Texas, where they were both stationed. Nikki and David soon developed a relationship, fell in love and decided to get married. The newlyweds were promptly relocated to Ft. Hood, Texas, and deployed with the 1st Calvary Division soon after. “We often joke that we spent our honeymoon in Kuwait courtesy of the Army,” Nikki said with a smile. 

Following their deployment, Nikki and David returned to Ft. Hood where they were both released from active duty in late 2011. They returned to her roots in the Ohio Valley a short time later. 

“Looking back now, joining the Army was the best thing that ever could have happened to me,” said Nikki. “I am proud to have lived and learned the values of duty, respect, honor, loyalty and integrity which have helped to shape my life as a wife, soldier, employee and student.”

After spending about a year trying to reintegrate into the workforce, Nikki decided to return to college and began attending Ohio University Eastern in the spring semester of 2013. “My Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits covered the cost of tuition, so I decided to finish what I started nearly 15 years earlier and returned to the Eastern Campus,” she said. “This time I went with an academic vision, determined to focus on a major that would prepare me to help and support veterans with the challenges that my husband and I have faced.”

Nikki communicated these thoughts to Margie Bumgardner, her academic advisor, and the rest is history. “Mrs. Bumgardner recommended that I take the Introduction to Social Work class and I immediately knew that I had found the right fit for me,” she said. “I absolutely love the social work program at the Eastern Campus. The faculty here are amazing, they have challenged me and supported me, and I am supremely confident that I am prepared to go out into the work field and make a positive difference for area veterans. I can’t thank Mrs. Bumgardner enough for her great advice.” 

The faculty at Ohio University Eastern are just as impressed with Nikki. “As a former Air Force Social Worker, I am most proud of Nikki and her accomplishments while a student in our social work program,” said Rich Greenlee, dean emeritus. “She has previously served her country with honor and is now passionately caring for veterans as a social work student here at the university and in the community in her field placement.” 

Greenlee continued, “Her dedication and commitment to veterans is second to none. She is an enthusiastic learner with a thirst for acquiring the knowledge and social work skills necessary to provide high quality services to military veterans. And equally important, Nikki’s military experience, combined with her genuine empathy for the challenges that veterans face upon returning to civilian life, will make her an effective professional social worker in the future when she graduates.”

Nikki, who plans to graduate in May 2016, is working as the Veterans Affair liaison at Ohio University Eastern this academic year. “My primary mission as the VA liaison is to ensure a seamless transition to the university community,” she said. “I am here to help vets with educational forms, give advice about services available, and be someone they can talk with about their military service.”

Nikki finished, “We want all area veterans to know about the wonderful opportunities that await them at the Eastern Campus. Our class sizes are small, the faculty are outstanding, the support staff is in place, and most importantly, we want to help them achieve their academic goals.” 

For more information about the academic opportunities for veterans at the Eastern Campus, please contact Nikki at ouevets@ohio.edu or 740-699-2515.