When I learned about a fellowship available to Veteran women through my university’s Veterans service office, I was intrigued by the opportunity to embrace my identities as a Veteran and a woman.
While walking to my first Focus Forward Fellowship group activity, I realized that this was a group of women with whom I could deeply connect. We immediately hit it off: not only did all of us share a common military background, but we also shared the common intention of getting our degrees. As women Veterans, we set audacious goals and surmount them. Knowing this group of women has truly changed how I approach challenges, both in school and the workplace. Learning how my sisters are overcoming challenges gives me the strength to do the same. Importantly, it’s also allowed me to be vulnerable about the struggles I’m experiencing within the group, a freedom not often afforded to female Veterans who spent their military careers held to exacting standards.
In addition to this valuable sense of community with an amazing cohort of military connected women, the Fellowship gave me the opportunity to identify my strengths. While attending the Fellowship, I thought about the women in my life that I wanted to be like, who had qualities that I coveted but could never seem to replicate in myself. The Focus Forward Fellowship helped me to pinpoint where my own strengths lie and how to wield them to make an impact in my career. Rather than attempting to be like the people around me to succeed, I can succeed with my own strengths.
At the fellowship, I felt like I was at the starting block before a race waiting for the figurative gun to go off to give me permission to start living the rest of my life with a new vigor. The guidance and various activities allowed me to attack my academic and professional goals with tangible self-management tools and a new sense of security.
At school, I tackled my daily coursework with a paradigm shift, sprinting rather than jogging toward my finish line. At work, one month after I returned, I saw an opportunity for a position in my department that seemed out of reach. Coworkers expressed that I shouldn’t even consider applying. Because of the Focus Forward Fellowship, however, I lept at the opportunity to be professionally challenged. I was ultimately hired.
I urge other women student Veterans who may be considering applying for the fellowship seek this amazing opportunity and learn from it. There are three important things I believe you will gain from the Focus Forward Fellowship:
- Valuable tools such as interviewing and communicating effectively with civilians.
- Connections that will make your life and your future, better. You will meet a remarkable group of people: not only your amazing cohort, but also a carefully curated group of mentors, and the experts who put this together just for you.
- Something intangible that you simply can’t get in other spaces: you can be yourself, a military connected woman and really take the time to learn about yourself. You can harness the entirety of what you are and magnify those parts that will help you be successful in academia, in your career, and in your personal life.
Because of the Focus Forward Fellowship, I know how to recognize and utilize my strengths to help me succeed.
About the author: Diane Darling served in the United States Air Force. She graduated from Arizona State University with a masters of science in family and human development and hopes to earn a Ph.D. in higher education while continuing to work as a graduate program manager for the University of Arizona.