Student veterans bring experience to campus

Scott Shirley
Scott Shirley in the Veterans Resource Center. / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
Scott Shirley started at the University of Washington Bothell right out of high school in 2008. He left after two quarters. “I wasn’t ready for it,” he said.

A decade later, after five years in the Navy, Shirley returned with a different attitude.

Now, majoring in Computer Science & Software Engineering, Shirley is working to graduate in 2021 and start a new career.

As a proud veteran, Shirley found something else on campus — a community of people with military service. He made friends at the Veterans Resource Center in Founders Hall. And, when the UW Bothell chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) elected officers for this year, Shirley became the secretary.

Proud part of campus

In September, Shirley represented UW Bothell at the national SVA Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. It included a panel discussion on 9/11 with Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War Army helicopter pilot who was wounded in combat. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to the group. Shirley made connections with other SVAs across the country.

Back on campus, the SVA is trying to increase the visibility of veterans and make them more of a resource for other student groups, Shirley said.

“We have student vets in every degree, at every grade level, and we do have a lot of outside experience that would be beneficial to a classroom setting,” he said.

There are currently about 200 students on the UW Bothell campus who are eligible for Veterans Affairs benefits, including the family members of veterans.

“I would like for people to be proud of their service and let people know who they are and what they can bring to the table,” he said. “There’s a lot of benefit to being involved with your student community.”

Ready for changes

Shirley joined the Navy in 2014 and became a corpsman, a position like a paramedic for the Marine Corps. He served at a hospital in Florida, at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and on training operations in Japan and Korea.

“If they needed stitches, I’d suture them up,” he said. “If they needed a higher level of care, I’d stabilize them and then organize that transfer.”

At times, he also was responsible for supervising seven or eight other corpsmen, and toward the end of his service, he was in charge of about 40 people.

By the time Shirley returned to UW Bothell in 2018, he had changed, and the campus had changed. The Activities & Recreation Center and Discovery Hall were new. There were more students, and parking was harder to find. Turning 30, he’s sitting in classrooms with people who are 10 years younger.

“It’s not bad, it’s just a different experience.”

Making a difference

And by the time he leaves UW Bothell, Shirley hopes to have made a difference on campus.

“I think it would be cool if I could walk up to any student, ask them if they know a student veteran and have them have a positive experience to tell me,” he said.

After graduating, Shirley isn’t certain what will be next for him. He already has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Art and Animation from DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, and he could use that background in game development. He says he likes “looking at tens of thousands of lines of information and making sense of it.” He’s also passionate about data privacy and could see himself working in cybersecurity.

Ideally, Shirley would like to combine technology and advocacy.

“I would love to somehow find a way to use technology and data processing to advocate for veterans to make their lives better.”

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