Some people graduate from high school knowing exactly what they want to study in college. Others go straight into the workforce. For Shaei Rodriguez ’22, the path wasn’t so clear. He joined the United States Air Force after high school as a way to gain some wisdom and experience, and to help with the financial aspects of higher education.

“I thought that the military was a great compromise to get the maturity and the financial assistance,” says the Denver native, who is the first in his family to join the military. Now in his fourth year of active duty, Rodriguez is a senior airman (soon to be staff sergeant) at Camp Springs, Maryland, where he works as a knowledge manager administering the base’s SharePoint system. To expand his expertise, he decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in knowledge management online at Syracuse University.

Rodriguez is not physically located on the Syracuse University campus, but he says he still feels part of the Orange community. In fact, embracing the Orange spirit is part of what drove him to apply for the scholarship. “To me, being Orange means taking risks,” he explains. “But by accepting the risk, you can get plenty of rewards. It’s partly why I applied for this scholarship. I thought, ‘OK, if I don’t get it, nothing happens. But either way, it’s a great opportunity to practice essay writing outside of the academic environment.’”