Above: CofC student-veterans Tyler Rothenberg (left) and Nic DeLuca (right) are students in the College’s MBA program. (Photo by Heather Moran)
Veterans Day is a time to pause and consider the many former members of the U.S. military – particularly those among our College of Charleston community. Their sacrifices, their bravery and their resilience are marks of their patriotism.
Master of Business Administration students Tyler Rothenberg and Nic DeLuca are among two of the 221 students and more than 80 faculty and staff members at the College with military service backgrounds. The College, which U.S. News & World Report recently ranked as the No. 4 best college in the United States for veterans, supports its student-veterans through the Office of Veteran and Military Student Services. And this year, that office has partnered with the Student Veteran Organization (SVO) to commemorate Veterans Day with free sandwiches, beverages and snacks at 1:30 p.m. in the Veterans Lounge in the Lightsey Building on campus. In addition, at 3 p.m. on Nov. 11, SVO will host a Zoom meeting with President Andrew T. Hsu, followed by a Netflix viewing party for The Outpost, starring Orlando Bloom and Scott Eastwood.
For Rothenberg, his goal to pursue a future career in marketing is a world away from the five years he served in the U.S. Army.
During that time, he spent 12 months deployed in Iraq as a combat medic supporting a sniper team in the field. His military career also included a stint serving at Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C. Later, he was handpicked to serve directly with the general commanding medical facilities throughout the northern region of the U.S., which meant he traveled across a 13-state area with that officer. It was a unique opportunity to glean insights into top-down military decision-making.
He says his time in the service and his status as a veteran influence all aspects of his life.
“Being a veteran is part of everything I do,” he explains. “For instance, I’m currently the president of the MBA Class Association, and a lot of doing that is derived from the leadership skills I learned in the Army. I traveled all over the world and consequently I have a depth of experience that most graduate students don’t have. I regard the opportunity to offer my experience and apply my leadership skills as a privilege.”
Prior to enrolling in the University of Charleston, South Carolina, Rothenberg worked in the local restaurant and bar industry. For him, it was – and remains – a labor of love.
“I actually moved to Charleston because of the restaurant scene here,” he explains. “I’ve been a general manager, a bar manager, a sales rep, an assistant distilling manager – just so many different roles. I’ve also written a fair number of articles about aspects of this industry. To say that I’m passionate about the bar world would be an understatement, particularly the spirits industry.”
And the root of that passion, he says, lies in the human interaction that those roles involve.
“I’ve learned that the human experience is what I’m most passionate about,” he says. “Perhaps that’s because I connect to the psychology of human behavior. And when I think about Veterans Day, I know that first and foremost my status as a vet is something that brings me pride. But I always try to find the balance between honoring and acknowledging the experiences that help define me as a man and a human being. I know guys who base their entire identity on being a veteran. I see it a little differently. I definitely want it to be part of my identity, so I see Veterans Day as a special day. I use it to reflect on my service, but I don’t want to be celebrated. When people say ‘Thank you for your service,’ I appreciate that, but I don’t specifically seek it.”
DeLuca, who is focusing on finance in the MBA program, has a similar outlook.
“I’m a patriot,” DeLuca says. “Always have been. I was brought up to respect anyone who wears a military uniform. But part of my training in the Marines was to learn how to lay low. So, I don’t project that I’m a veteran. I don’t talk about it too much unless I’m asked.”
As a designated marksman in the Marines, DeLuca was a team leader among a select group of soldiers deployed in Northern Iraq to start Operation Inherent Resolve, the fight against ISIS. After his tour of duty ended, he came back to the U.S. and spent the final year of his military service as a head marksman instructor at Parris Island, S.C.
For DeLuca, Veterans Day is a moment to reflect.
“I take time to think about the guys we lost and my buddies who are out there still fighting,” he says. “I call some of those guys, typically. I try to keep in touch with them.”
And like Rothenberg, DeLuca says he’s grateful to have the opportunity to continue his education.
“As an undergraduate (he attended Virginia Military Institute, University of South Carolina and graduated from the CofC this past spring as a business major), I wasn’t that engaged,” says DeLuca. “I saw going to college as a necessary evil. I got good grades, but I wasn’t particularly motivated. Then, when I joined this MBA program, I saw how education should be done. This program is really demanding. It’s hard, but it’s so beneficial. For me, it’s a life-changer in how it helps you develop skills. And I’ve met so many great faculty and have learned so much.”
Much like the hands-on skills you learn in the military to complete a mission, DeLuca feels the MBA program offers students the expertise and know-how to move forward in their careers.
“The faculty here want to provide students with the tools for us to accomplish our goals,” he says. “And that goes well beyond academics. They really immerse you into an experience that will transform you and offer you what you need to be success.”
That’s something to take pride in.