Name: Jessica Wilkes

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Education: B.S. in workforce education development from Southern Illinois University Carbondale; I am currently pursuing a master of social work at Fordham University.

Job title: Program Director, Veteran and Military Student Services

How long have you worked at the College? I have been with the College for almost seven years. I started in March 2015 as the office manager for the ROAR Scholars Program, and was there until they closed. In September 2015, I started working in the newly established Veteran and Military Student Services office and have been here ever since.

What are your job responsibilities? My overall responsibility is supporting and assisting our veteran/military students in their transition from the military to our campus. My job starts when they receive their acceptance letter and ends the day they graduate. Additionally, I conduct veteran/military student breakout sessions each semester in collaboration with the Office of New Student Programs. I manage the daily operations of the veteran and military student center and provide support to our students. That support could be anything from locating and referring a student to a resource they need, answering routine student questions or just listening when they are having a rough day and need to talk. I also teach Green Zone Training for faculty and staff interested in learning about the military experience and veterans. I also serve as a liaison for College faculty and staff who have questions regarding veteran/military student issues.

What do you like most about your job? I love that I get to support veteran and military students transitioning out of the military and into the College. It was not long ago that I was transitioning out of the military myself, and I love that I can make their transition into higher education easier than mine.

What question do you get asked most in your job and what’s your typical answer? “Do you have time to talk?” My typical answer: “I’m never too busy to talk to you.”

What’s your favorite location on campus and why? I like Green Way. I just think it’s beautiful, and it reminds me of somewhere you would see at Disney World.

What are your hobbies? Before I started graduate school I loved to write and work out, but I have not had much time to do either recently.

What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of? Though I miss them when they move on, I am most proud when my students graduate and flourish in their new careers or advanced education. I love to brag about their accomplishments as if they were my kids!

Name a creative work (book, movie, performance, etc.) you enjoyed recently – why? I’ve recently finished the audiobook The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins. I don’t have much free time since starting school, so I listen to audiobooks whenever I am in the car.

What was your favorite TV show growing up? Full House and The Cosby Show. I always wished that I was part of a big family like the ones on those shows!

What’s next on your bucket list? I want to travel and see more of the world outside of the places I went when I was in the military. My first stop would be to see the redwoods in California.

What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you? My previous profession was completely different from what I’m doing now. I was a combat videographer and editor in the military as a member of the U.S. Air Force. I traveled the world and documented everything from war to historical events.

What was your first job? I was an unpaid “teen leader” at a summer day camp for the department of recreation in my hometown. I loved it, even though I didn’t get paid.

What’s your favorite Lowcountry restaurant? Circa 1886

Describe your perfect day: Having coffee with my dad on the back deck of his Maggie Valley mountain house and spending the day with my family.

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