Veteran Student Advisor Makes Helping Military Students Her Mission


Veteran Student Advisor Makes Helping Military Students Her Mission

LaDawn Jones grew up thinking a college education was something she would never have. Thanks to the U.S. Navy and the University of Oklahoma Extended Campus, she was wrong. Not only did she complete two degrees, but she also found a career where her daily mission is helping others achieve dreams of their own.

"I grew up in southeastern Oklahoma with a single mom and two older brothers," Jones said. "I didn't think college was an option for me because we didn't have anything."

As a senior in high school and just 17 years old, Jones enlisted in the U.S. Navy's delayed entry program to secure money for college and spent five years in active duty and three years in the reserves. When she returned to Oklahoma, she enrolled in community college. Like many students, she struggled.

"My time in the military taught me how to stand on my own," she said. "Also, it taught me how to be a team member and how to contribute to something bigger than myself."

"After leaving the Navy, I started and stopped at the community college level for way too long. No one told me how stupid I was for changing my major three times," she said. "Once I finally knuckled down and got my associate degree in 2009, I thought I was done."

Soon after, she heard an advertisement for OU Extended Campus. She was working full time, and Extended Campus' online programs allowed her to go to school and still work.

"I knew that was the program for me," she said. "I started the liberal studies program in Fall 2009 and graduated with my bachelor's degree in Spring 2011," she said.

Jones immediately started graduate school, earning a Master of Human Relations degree in Fall 2012. She was eventually hired by OU Extended Campus and now works as a military undergraduate academic advisor where she not only guides students through course enrollment but also helps them succeed in reaching their goals.

"I'm really passionate about people who come back to school," Jones said. "Having been in their shoes, starting and stopping my education through the years, helps me to guide others to avoid my potholes."

In addition to allowing her to get a degree on her own time, OU Extended Campus was affordable. She was given the maximum military credit possible, and it was transferred to her transcript at no charge. These are things Jones always shares with potential Extended Campus students.

"Extended Campus makes sure there are military people here to help serve our military students, and I think that makes them feel more comfortable. I don't think anyone is a bigger fan than I am of what we do."

"The fact that we continue to focus on and serve the military student during what has turned into decades-long wars and changing military benefits sets us apart from other institutions," she said. "We work with them in any way we can when they have unexpected deployments or training that calls them away."

Jones doesn't just help military students reach their educational goals. She also serves as the OU Student Veterans Association advisor, leads the Sooner Salute Graduate Ceremony and serves on the Pat Tillman Scholarship committee.

While her motivation for joining the military was to secure funding for college, she said the experience taught her skills she uses every day to meet the needs of Extended Campus students she works with.

"My time in the military taught me how to stand on my own," she said. "Also, it taught me how to be a team member and how to contribute to something bigger than myself."

These are skills she uses every day as she contributes to the lives of OU Extended Campus students.

"I take my job very seriously. I've been in their shoes. I can relate to them on that level," she said. "Extended Campus makes sure there are military people here to help serve our military students, and I think that makes them feel more comfortable. I don't think anyone is a bigger fan than I am of what we do."

This article originally appeared in Women in the Armed Forces: A Century of Service.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.