Land-locked Oklahoma is a far cry from the depths of the ocean for retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer Donald Blankenship. In his first career he served our country aboard four U.S. nuclear submarines as an “A-Ganger”. For those non-military folks reading this article, Don was a machinist mate – which means he worked on 80% of the submarines mechanical equipment that was non-nuclear.
Don retired from the Navy in 2004 and started working, but for the jobs he really wanted he needed a degree. His path would bring him to Rose State College on the G.I. Bill and in May 2014 he graduated with an Associate’s degree in Environmental Sciences/Natural Resources.
Today he’s putting it to use on campus in the Engineering and Science division as a lab assistant. One of his more recent projects he’s looking forward to unveiling – a 3-D snake that smokes cigarettes. The purpose: a class assignment to study air pollution.
“After graduation I got my job immediately and it’s the job I always wanted,” says Don.
Don’s assistance is not just with assignments. He talks to the students, gets to know both those coming straight out of high school and those starting their next education – the military veterans. But as you can imagine, he has a special interest in his military brethren.
“I go above and beyond the job title,” Don tells us. “I told vets if you need anything you come see me. I want these guys to know they are taken care of. I was a student here and I know what they’re going through.”
Most veterans are non-traditional students and they face challenges to degree-completion. Many put their education on hold for deployment, as well as the family responsibilities that their traditional peers do not have.
Don admits some of his conversations with veteran students are straight- no fluff.
“If I’ve got a veteran student talking about how hard an assignment is I remind them what they came from (military service) and that their easiest day in the service was a lot tougher than their toughest day at Rose State,” said Don Blankenship.
“I think Rose State is a great starting point for veterans, not only to get your degree but get your study habits in check, your time management in order because you just can’t jump in and hope it’s going to work out,” says Blankenship.
But it does work out with persistence and assistance at Rose State.