When Brett McKnight arrived at Syracuse University he wasn’t a typical first-year student. A veteran who served as a Reconnaissance Marine in the 2nd Recon Battalion at Camp Lejeune, N.C., he had been deployed twice and attended rigorous military courses like a combatant diver, military free-fall, trauma management and more. In February 2012, after one semester at Paul Smith’s College, McKnight enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“I felt that the normal path to college wasn’t challenging me in the way I needed,” he says. “I wanted to fight for a cause greater than my own–something I could be proud of that would impact other people’s lives.”

Embracing New Opportunities

“I was selected for Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) to become a Marine Raider, but the commitment was for six more years,” McKnight says. He’d served as team medic on his last deployment, and that piqued his interest in pursuing a medical career. “MARSOC could not provide that, so with two weeks left on my contract I decided to forfeit my slot and left the Marines.”

Just after this momentous decision, McKnight was contacted by Dan Piston, a program evaluation manager with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. Already headed back to Syracuse, McKnight agreed to an informational meeting and learned what Syracuse could offer a veteran considering a degree in medicine.

McKnight was admitted to Syracuse and prepared to face a new challenge–transitioning from the military back to the classroom.

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