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ODU Health Sciences Students Share Personal Experiences at College’s Military Appreciation Day

Photo of Nicole FloresNicole Flores Photo of Alicia KostkaAlicia Kostka

Nestled in the heart of Hampton Roads, which has the largest concentration of military personnel anywhere in the world, it's not surprising that about one-quarter of the 24,000 students enrolled at Old Dominion University are active duty or have some affiliation with the armed services.

To honor their service, and in conjunction with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, the ODU College of Health Sciences held its Military Appreciation Day in April. The annual luncheon recognizes the men and women who are currently (and formerly) in military service and, typically, Hampton Roads personnel are invited to talk about their personal experiences.

This year, event speakers were Nicole Flores and Alicia Kostka who are students in the College of Health Sciences with military backgrounds in the U.S. Coast Guard and Naval Reserves, respectively.

"Their remarks were so powerful and reflective of why our college established an annual day and luncheon to show appreciation for our military-affiliated students," said Deborah Blythe Bauman, assistant dean, ODU College of Health Sciences.

In her address, Flores - who grew up an "Army brat" and has been active duty Coast Guard for 12 years - noted the challenges of military life and that "it is nice to know that as a student at ODU we are part of a family and we have a place that we can always call home." She went on to explain how she expects the college's Health Services Administration program will help her meet Coast Guard and post-military career goals in the rapidly growing healthcare field.

"Having a bachelor's in Health Service Administration from ODU will assist me with advancement within the Coast Guard. I am in the process of applying for Chief Warrant Officer and I am confident that my application will stand out due to the experiences I have had here at ODU," she said. "In my time here I have improved my writing skills, advanced my knowledge in leadership and management and been highly involved in the ODU community volunteering as a M-Power peer educator through the Women's Center. The knowledge and skills I am gaining here at ODU will allow me to continue serve the Coast Guard as a highly competent and knowledgeable healthcare professional healthcare professional. The management and leadership skills I will obtain through this degree program will enable me to become a role model and a valuable asset to any Coast Guard health care facility where I am assigned."

Kostka, an inactive naval reservist who is a second year physical therapy student at ODU, explained to luncheon attendees how many of the university's students have put their lives and goals on hold to serve and protect their country. "It's been my impression over the past few years that Old Dominion is an academic institution steeped in a rich military heritage and has always fully supported their active duty, reservist and veteran students, faculty and employees in every way possible," she said.

Initially, Kostka said she was "overwhelmed" by the prospect of completing prerequisite courses, the application process and a "daunting" three-year physical therapy program but she learned her years in military service prepared her well for the rigors of academic life.

"In my experience, serving in the military was not unlike being a member of my PT class. In the Navy, arduous training, long hours and a common sense of purpose foster camaraderie among crewmembers," she said. "That same spirit of teamwork exists among my classmates here at ODU and has directly impacted my graduate school experience in the College of Health Sciences. When the curriculum gets tough, we all band together to help each other out."

In concluding her remarks, Kostka quoted U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who once said: "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

Kostka, who wants to help rehabilitate injured war veterans, added: "Many people in their lives seek a rewarding occupation that they can enjoy and for which they are well suited. The lucky few succeed in finding a job where, at the end of the day, they feel satisfied that their accomplishments have been worthwhile. I feel truly blessed to have discovered not one, but two careers that fully integrate my capabilities and interests. I will always fondly look back on my years of military service and am looking forward to a new exciting career as a physical therapist."