Students Who Serve: Graduates reflect on, look ahead to service

The UConn Army & Air Force ROTC Joint Cadet Color Guard performs the presentation of the colors to commence UConn's Veteran's Day ceremony in the Wilbur Cross North Reading Room in Storrs, Connecticut on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (Ashley Maher/The Daily Campus)

As commencement approaches, University of Connecticut graduates are looking forward to a wide range of new experiences to drive their careers forward. Among them are students who have both come from the military or will be joining branches like the Army.

Dominique Dimaria, already graduated in December, will be joining the U.S. Army Reserves as part of the Officer Candidate Program. (Courtesy/UConn ROTC)

While Dominique Dimaria already graduated in December, she will be joining the U.S. Army Reserves as part of the Officer Candidate Program. At UConn, she majored in allied health sciences and was a member of the women’s rugby team.

According to an interview published in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources’ Naturally@UConn, she wants to become and Army nurse to travel the world and help others in need.

“One of my goals is to get as many random certifications as possible. I am a certified bartender, I am almost a certified EMT and lifeguard, and I want to become a certified skydiving instructor, yoga teacher and massage therapist,” Dimaria told Naturally@UConn. “I like learning new things and gaining new skills.”

Yuanjing Yao, a fourth-semester undecided major, has a long way to go before graduating, but like those who will graduate this weekend, she will move on as well. Yao was accepted into the Army Engineer Program with the Army Reserves.

Yuanjing Yao, a fourth-semester undecided major, was accepted into the Army Engineer Program with the Army Reserves. (Courtesy/UConn ROTC)

After serving four years in the Navy, Timothy Leininger, a graduating journalism major, spent his time at UConn since spring 2014 working to become a reporter. He is excited to start at the Journal Inquirer Monday, where he was offered a job after an internship he completed there.

“Veteran graduates usually go off and get jobs or go to grad school,” Leininger said. “Some may come back to the military and become officers and some will serve a few more years.”

While Leininger is 38 years old, he said he had a great experience at the university because of the community and support offered on campus. Some of his favorite places are the Veterans Oasis lounge in the Student Union and the Veterans Affairs and Military Programs study rooms in Arjona.

“There’s a bazaar thing about the relationships between vets,” Leininger said. “Ninety percent of the time, no matter your opinion, religion or politics, we are not afraid of expressing our opinion on things and in the end, we still respect and support each other.” 

Veterans come from all walks of life, he said, and thanks to a national GI Bill, many veterans are getting their education and graduating from universities like UConn. 


Diler Haji is a staff writer for The Daily Campus and can be reached via email at diler.haji@uconn.edu.