A U.S. Army veteran brings his unique background to architecture to create moving, impactful spaces.

As a mortarman with the U.S. Army, Aaron Cass ’21 knows a thing or two about camaraderie, which is why he was pleasantly surprised by the sense of teamwork he discovered while pursuing his degree in Syracuse University’s School of Architecture.

Looking to gain some independence, Cass joined the Army out of high school to find out who he was and what he wanted to do in life, ultimately deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. His four years in the service provided him with “nuggets of gold” for which he is thankful. “I learned how to be independent and take care of myself, and I met my wife,” says Cass. “There are all these little things that if I were to go back in time and not join the Army, I would not be where I am. I’m glad I did, because I am happy with who I am today.”

To cover the cost of University tuition, Cass utilizes his G.I. Bill benefits and the Yellow Ribbon Program. He’s also drawn upon some of the many services offered by the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, most notably its career fairs.

“Syracuse really values its veterans. Whether you’re in a five-year program like me or a four-year program—or going into law enforcement, like many veterans do, or even a more creative field—it’s really important to have those opportunities. That’s why it’s great that the University is so welcoming,” says Cass.

As he prepares to graduate this spring, Cass is busy working on his thesis, which ties together architecture and his expertise as a military veteran. He is studying the relationship between firearms used in mass shootings and the space and architecture in which those weapons are used, with a goal of understanding the role of spatial context in these deadly attacks. It was a topic that his advisors had never heard before and one reason why Cass sees potential in veterans joining creative fields. “It’s an important perspective to have from people who can make beautiful work, but still talk about very real things.”