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@OhioStateECE Veteran Support Spotlight Series

In a new series, we talk to several Ohio State ECE veteran alumni and current students to learn why they became Buckeyes and how their time here helped with the transition from carrying a weapon to carrying a bookbag.

What they describe is an environment of respect for their service, diverse resources, affordability and most important, a community of supportive people.

BRANDI DOWNS

After serving in the Coast Guard for six years, Brandi Downs found herself switching from military life to that of an atypical student at The Ohio State University.

A veteran, student, mother and wife, she began a new phase as a Ph.D. scholar in the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) program. She is part of Professor Joel Johnson’s remote sensing team at Ohio State’s ElectroScience Laboratory.

While her trajectory in academia is blossoming, the transition outside of military life is not always easy for some veterans. With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and enhancements to the GI Bill, colleges and universities are expecting a surge in veteran enrollment unseen since World War II. Creating a welcome environment for those service men and women is essential. 

According to the United States government, veterans often experience enhanced feelings of isolation, or extended recovery from physical and emotional issues from serving in wartime. Many fail to graduate or succumb to depression or suicide. 

Ohio State’s reputation for veteran support is growing. In 2018, its electrical engineering program was named top in Ohio and No. 8 nationwide for veteran student support and friendliness by College Factual.

ECE Chair, Hesham El Gamal, said support for veterans is crucial as they enter academia.

“Many returning vets face serious emotional challenges,” he said.

Story by Ryan Horns, ECE/IMR Communications Specialist (Horns.1@osu.edu)