News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rob Rennaker: For Military Vets, The College Experience Can Be Isolating

Courtney Collins
Rob Rennaker served in the United States Marine Corps for five years. He participated in Operation Sharp Edge in Liberia, Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Kuwait and Provide Comfort in Yugoslavia.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that a million veterans and their dependents have enrolled in college in the last four years. That means a very different college experience for students, professors and administrators.

Rob Rennaker has seen all of those perspectives – he’s a Marine who went back to school after serving in Kuwait, Yugoslavia and Liberia, and he now heads the bioengineering department at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Interview Highlights: Rob Rennaker…

…On the biggest challenges he faced returning home:

"When you come out, you’ve been told the whole time in the service that you’re one of the best, you’re the few, the proud, you’ve got all these awards, you’ve been to all these places, you’ve risen in the ranks…and you come out and nobody recognizes that. Nobody sees any value in the skills that you have, and you start to question yourself. ‘What did I really do?’ and ‘where does my value really lie?’"

…On the difficulties of finding a job after military service:

"[Finding a job] was the most depressing part for me. Separating from service, thinking ‘hey, I’m one of the best mechanics out there, I can fix any helicopter or any aircraft you put in front me,’ but because on my resume, what do I put on there? A leader, a hard-charger, motivated…those are all adjectives that anybody can put on their resume, and my experience at the time, they weren’t looking for helicopter mechanics."

…On the special challenges veterans face when they start college:

"They’re very focused, they have goals and they know where they want to go, but I think they suffer from feeling isolated.

…While men and women coming out of the service are probably struggling, they have to recognize in time, as they rise, those skill sets are going to become extremely valuable to them."

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.