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November 11th is the day when we come together as a community to acknowledge all those who have served in the military and reflect on the freedoms that we should never take for granted. The Monterey Institute is proud of its recognition, year after year, as a Military Friendly School in appreciation of the warm welcome it extends to veterans. Students will celebrate the day with several activities honoring those who have served their country, including a free barbeque in the student garden on campus.

Jens Wiik (MAIPS ’15) and Olga Volcsko (MANPTS ’15) jokingly say that they are the Institute’s best recruiters, for when they tell their friends about the programs and warm reception they received at MIIS, “of course they will want to come too!” In all seriousness, Jens and Olga are grateful for the “amazing” help they have received from the Financial Aid Office, finding their way through the complicated paperwork to qualify for up to 100% tuition coverage.

Jens, who was born in Norway to an American mother and Norwegian father, says that the idea of public service has always been strong in his family. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a World War II Navy veteran and his paternal grandfather fought in the resistance in Norway. He served in the U.S. Army for 10 years, doing tours and being stationed in South Korea, Iraq, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and rising to the rank of captain. On track to graduate with a degree in International Policy and Development, he would like to continue on to a career doing “some sort of service,” specializing in the civil-military relationship side of development. “We are problem solvers,” he says, explaining in part why the MIIS community and its academic programs are such a good fit for veterans seeking to transition to the next step of their career.

Like Jens, Olga Volcsko renounced the citizenship of her birth for U.S. citizenship as part of her commitment to the United States Army. Olga is originally from Russia where her whole family still lives. As an Army Reservist for over nine years, Olga has served in military intelligence in Iraq and elsewhere, and was recently selected to become an officer. Her husband, a National Guardsman, is currently serving in Romania. She is enrolled in the master’s degree program in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies, where she is focusing on issues related to chemical and biological weapons, and could not be happier with the relevance of her courses to her future career aspirations.

Both Jens and Olga say they have a lot to contribute to classroom discussion about issues affecting the areas where they have served, and that their fellow students are eager to hear from them. “Usually the question is: ‘Wow, what was that like?’” says Jens, adding that these kind of conversations are important to elevate the debate and inform policy decisions. “Monterey is a very veteran-friendly community,” they both say, pointing to the two military schools and many retired veterans in the area, as well as the respectful and appreciative Monterey Institute community.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir