Faculty voice:

Bill Ravlin: Finding Spartans Will in veterans

Nov. 9, 2016

Bill Ravlin is a professor and chairperson of the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He is also an alumnus, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from MSU. In addition to his teaching and research, he enjoys photographing insects around the globe. 

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day and this has me thinking about entomology’s student veterans and how we’ve interacted with them over the years. Recently, MSU has made significant moves to bring military veterans onto campus and as a result the university earned “gold status” in the Veteran-Friendly School Program created by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. This program recognizes Michigan colleges and universities for their efforts to better serve veterans and their families.

In addition to university-wide programs, the Department of Entomology has had many successes with student veterans and I’m actively looking for ways to enroll more. A real attraction to recruiting vets into entomology is the unique skills and experiences they bring to the table. Their work ethic, drive and maturity fit well with our entomology graduate programs and this often allows them to serve as role models for other students. Here are a few outstanding examples.

  • Lt. Col. Jamie A. Blow earned her doctorate in 1998 and was promoted to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army this past winter.
  • Chris Sebolt received a master’s degree in 2000 studying biological control. After working with researchers on campus for several years, he returned to military service with the U.S. Marines.
  • Erik Foster has a master’s degree in medical entomology (2003) and went into the U.S. Army.
  • Jaree Johnson-Owens graduates with a master’s in aquatic entomology in 2008 and is a medical veterinary entomologist for the U.S. Army.
  • Nick Babcock, a master’s student in forensic entomology, expects to graduate in 2018.
  • Joseph Lonchar is an Entomology undergraduate student who expects to graduate in 2018 and continue on to graduate school. 

Most recently, Adam Ingrao has caught my attention with his whirlwind of activity. In addition to being an Entomology doctoral candidate, he was awarded a Plant Science Fellowship from MSU; he successfully competed for a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship; is the co-founder of the Michigan Chapter of the Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan; and is an active member of the Michigan Beekeepers Association.

Going forward the Department of Entomology seeks to provide opportunities for student vets interested in gaining a master’s or doctorate in entomology. This year we cost-shared on stipend, tuition and fees for Nick Babcock to earn a masters with Eric Benbow and we plan to continue to recruit veterans into our graduate programs using this model. This is an excellent opportunity for vets and a real win for the Department of Entomology.

Vets are prepared to apply their unique skills and experiences in a challenging academic environment leading to graduate degrees. They are able to supplement their GI Bill and other sources of support with Department of Entomology Investment Fund dollars. And, MSU Entomology gains top quality students who have a strong sense of mission, are oriented to defined outcomes, and have the discipline to complete advanced degrees.

Thank you for your service!