Veteran’s Center Honors Military-Connected Students

Posted: February 19, 2020 | Author: Lyndsey Nelson | Read Time: 4 minutes

Military Connected Students at SUUBeginning in summer 2019, Southern Utah University’s Veteran’s Resource and Support Center announced a new initiative to honor a military-connected student every month. A military-connected student can be someone who has served in or out of combat or someone who has a family member who has served in the military. 

Below are the first five students to be awarded as the Veteran’s Center Military-Connected Student of the Month.

May 2019

The first student to be named the Military-Connected Student of the Month was James Dotter. After serving in the Marines, deploying twice between 2011 to 2016, Dotter enrolled at SUU to study aviation. 

During his time at SUU, Dotter has maintained a 3.9 GPA and plans on instructing at SUU after graduation. 

Dotter advises future students to “give your career the start it should have, don’t be lazy and not study. Ask questions and you’ll get an answer.”

July 2019

Andrew Harmala was the next student to receive this award. Harmala joined the US Marine Corp in 2002 at seventeen years old. He separated from the military in 2006 and began school at SUU in August of 2018. 

Harmala is currently studying to be an aviation pro-pilot and plans on flying helicopters after his graduation. 

“Follow your true passions,” said Harmal. “It’s much better to be happy than rich. I left a couple of good-paying jobs to come here and learn to fly and I’ve never been happier.”

August 2019

In August, Matthew Bischoff was awarded as the Military-Connected Student of the Month. Bischoff served in the Navy from 2008 to 2014. He joined the military in order to help others and travel the world, and it was during that time that Bischoff discovered his passion for aviation.

Bischoff is currently studying aviation and he plans to one day fly for search and rescue, as well as firefighting. 

My advice for future students is to develop an education plan for yourself that is goal-oriented yet flexible,” said Bischoff. “Study a lot, but also go have fun. The more you study and prepare for exams, the more free time you have to travel, play outside, and do the things you enjoy.”

September 2019

The first military-connected student awarded in the 2019 fall semester was Cristian Morales. Originally from Florida, Morales served in the Marine Corps between 2015 and March of 2019. 

Morales is currently studying aviation here at SUU, with plans of becoming a flight instructor while gaining experience and flight time, after which Morales dreams of working for an airline. He is also the Vice-President of the Student Veterans of America club, which is dedicated to helping students come together.

“Follow your dreams don’t let someone else dictate what you will do in life because you will be miserable,” said Morales. “As they say, if you do what you love you won’t work a day in your life.”

October 2019

The most recent student awarded as the Military-Connected Student of the Month was Phuong Tran. Tran served in the US Army between 2009 and 2015. 

“I joined the military because I couldn’t afford to put myself through a traditional 4-year college and my family was financially struggling,” said Tran. “Joining the military enabled me to help my parents financially and allowed me to earn my higher education.”

Tran is now an Exercise Science major, with plans on applying to a physical therapy program to pursue a doctorate degree after graduating from SUU. 

“When I first went to college before joining the military, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but when I was deployed I found a great passion for rehabilitating injured soldiers,” said Tran. 

“With hard work, anything can be possible,” said Tran. “Do what makes sense to you and do it to the best of your abilities. I have failed many times, but what matters the most is your reaction to that failure. Are you going to let it beat you, or are you going to keep moving forward?”


Director of Veteran Services Amanda Keller created the award to bring more awareness to this particular group of students and distinguish those that have gone above and beyond. 

We are a unique and wonderful group of students and I love to celebrate that uniqueness. I am very excited to continue to promote this program,” said Director of Veterans Services, Amanda Keller.

The Veterans Resource and Support Center at Southern Utah University helps military-connected students to graduate and achieve their goals. The center is looking to nominate students who volunteer, do well in school and support their fellow students. For more information about the Veteran’s Center, as well as those who have been awarded Military-Connected Student of the Month, please visit the center online or in the Sharwan Smith Student Center, Room 113.

Tags: Veterans Center

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