Bryan Stascavage ’18

While walking back to my room from Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, I remember telling a friend about my plans for the future.

“When I get out of the military, I’m going back to college with a vengeance.”

He looked at me inquisitively. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“A perfect 4.0 GPA or bust. I’m not messing around and wasting this opportunity like I did my first time around.”

My first time in college, which I attended right after high school, had been an unmitigated disaster: I only lasted three semesters, with a GPA hovering around a 2.0. After taking a wide array of courses at several community colleges in Connecticut, and then working as an apprentice for a writer in California, I joined the military as an intelligence analyst in August 2006. I joined for personal and patriotic reasons: the war in Iraq was going poorly, and I wanted to give my life meaning instead of feeling like I was perennially drifting.

Over the next five and a half years, I matured quickly. I went in lazy; I came out with a healthy work ethic and desire to be the best at whatever I did. I went in lost; I came out with a deep appreciation of the benefits we have in America, with a much better understanding of the nature of the world, and with a fundamental desire to improve the world around me. The only thing standing in my way of accomplishing that goal was a piece of paper: a degree.

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After moving back to Connecticut, I enrolled at Norwalk Community College and began working towards an accounting degree. True to the 4.0-or-bust promise I made to myself, the semesters passed and I received perfect grades on my transcript. Focusing on my future, I had just started looking at four-year colleges when representatives from The Posse Foundation arrived on campus.

Posse, which has been around since the 1980s, is a program designed to give nontraditional students, recruited and vetted from high schools in inner cities, an opportunity to attend top colleges. In exchange for free tuition, these students are charged with changing the atmosphere on campus by assuming leadership roles. In 2013, veterans were added to the list of nontraditional students, and the inaugural class was accepted at Vassar.  A year later, Wesleyan followed suit.  In late 2013, after mountains of paperwork and a competitive group interview, I was accepted at Wesleyan.

As the first Posse veterans group at Wesleyan, our main goal is twofold: to establish a tradition of excellence through academic achievement and leadership, and to maintain and expand opportunities for those who follow by proving that veterans belong at liberal arts colleges.

There are thousands of veterans who deserve to be considered by elite colleges. We are here to be living proof of that assertion.

Bryan Stascavage '18 served from August 2006 until March 2012 as a U.S. Army military intelligence analyst.  He was deployed three times: twice to Iraq and once on a humanitarian aid mission in Haiti in 2010.  He was born on Long Island and grew up in Sherman, Connecticut.