The path to a four-year university is different for everyone. Some students enroll right after high school, while others may enter the military, go straight to work or start at a community college.
This week — Non-Traditional Student Week and Veterans Day — Penn State Beaver acknowledges our veterans and our other students who became a part of the campus after serving our country or taking the time to explore other avenues.
Two students who are also veterans, Joseph Ebersohl and Michael Radatovich, shared their path from the military to Penn State Beaver.
Ebersohl, 27, was a staff sergeant in the Air Force where he served for six years as part of the security forces. During some of that time he was stationed in Italy and Belgium. He left the Air Force with an associate degree.
Originally from Colorado, Ebersohl moved to Beaver County after he left the service and initially enrolled in Community College of Beaver County. He eventually enrolled at Penn State Beaver as a business marketing management major. “That’s the part of the military that I missed the most, leading a team of people,” he said.
Ebersohl said he didn’t have any concerns about being an older student. “For me, I’m glad that I’m an adult learner. I appreciate a lot of the content and understand that I’m getting this education because I want to,” he said.
He said it did take him awhile to settle in because he began his time at Penn State Beaver during a time when he was going through some changes in his personal life, and Covid hit and changed everything again. But now that he’s settled, Ebersohl said he has found that his classes are starting to make sense and he can see how what he is learning all fits together.
He’s also joined the soccer team. Though he has never played soccer before, Ebersohl said he always wanted to play and just went for it. “At first I felt nervous about being much older than all the young guys on the team,” he said, adding he makes up for talent and lack of experience with his work ethic.
Radatovich, 26, of New Brighton, served as a corporal in the Marine Corps infantry. He spent four years on active duty after graduating from high school followed by six months in the reserves.
Radatovich said when he left the service, he wasn’t sure what to do. He said he wasn’t used to civilian life and felt like he was just on leave.
“You just hang out and drink,” Radatovich said. “For six months I did that, but it’s that’s not sustainable in the long term … You work menial jobs that aren’t fulfilling. You might be doing something and stop and think ‘I used to lead Marines and now I’m doing Joe Schmoe stuff over here.’”
And so it went for a while with Radatovich being unsure of what to do when a friend who was also a Marine said to him, “Hey, idiot. What are you doing?” That prompted him to make a decision.
He initially enrolled at CCBC, worked with the student Veterans Association there, and in the fall of 2020 he transferred to Penn State Beaver where he is majoring in accounting.
While Radatovich acknowledges a bit of a challenge being an older student in terms of “a little bit of a divide” with age and technology, there are positive aspects as well. “I’m usually a top participator in class. I can add experience and insight.”
Ebersohl said he has encouraged veterans to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and pursue a four-year education.
“It’s given me such an opportunity to find other passions in life,” Ebersohl said. “I never would have known that if I had not had this opportunity to explore things and learn about myself.”