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Student Spotlight

Marissa Manfro and father as Marissa was child and now


Marissa Manfro

Name: Marissa Adrianna Manfro
Branch: USMC
Degree: Natural Resource Conservation & Management
Graduation: May 13th, 2023
What are your plans after graduation?: After graduation, I am moving to Phoenix, Arizona! I will be working on Luke AFB with their Outdoor Recreation team ensuring that dependents of deployed active-duty members as well as single airmen have the opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy what the area has to offer. As a military dependent myself, I can relate in many ways to those participating in these particular events and I can't wait to get working with them!
What do you do in your off time? Hobbies?: I really enjoy to get outside and explore new places... especially now that the weather is starting to get warmer.
Anything else you want to say?: I am truly honored that I have the opportunity to work with military personnel and their families with my career in Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation! 

Justin & Jason McGee

Jason and Justin McGee standing beside each other and the WCU catamount


Name:   Justin McGee
Branch:   Air Force Dependent
Degree:  Finance with minor in entrepreneurship 
Graduation:  2024
What are your plans after graduation?   My plans after graduation would be getting a full-time career job at a bank or in the finance department 
What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies?In my off time my brother and I run a sports memorabilia

business. I enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends. 
Anything else you want to say? I want to thank my parents for their service as well as thank everyone else who has served or is serving!

Name:  Jason McGee
Branch:  Air Force Dependent
Degree:  Finance with a minor in entrepreneurship 
Graduation:  2024
What are your plans after graduation?  To work in a higher financial institution department in banking or a similar field doing finance work 
What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies?  In my free time I am usually visiting family or hanging with friends by also keeping busy with school . A fun hobby I have with is my brother and I running our small business dealing with sport memorabilia and meeting celebrities. 
Anything else you want to say?  Thank you to both my mom and dad for serving and helping me be where I am today. Being a part of a veteran family and being close to other veterans due to my mom working with veterans, has shown me how grateful I am and always loved giving back or helping the veterans.  A big thank you to all the other veterans that have served and those who are active and still serving. Thank you to non-profit organizations such as Veterans Bridge Home for always helping us and others. One of the things our mom cared about was always being willing to help everyone and she would put in countless hours making sure these veterans were getting their benefits they deserved.

Sommer in military uniform and Sommer and boyfriend


Sommer Rector

Branch: United States Air Force
Major: Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
Graduation: Spring 2024

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation I would like to get my paralegal license and work with veterans either at the veterans' treatment court or within my community. 

What do you do in your off time? In my off time from school, I have three kids, a set of twin girls who are 6 and a newborn who will be three months old on the 29th of this month, so free time doesn't really exist at my house but I like going to the park with the girls and going to the rivers we have all around us where we live. I am also a big fan of history channel shows when I get a moment to watch them. 

Courtney in military uniform and also in civilian clothing


Courtney M. Courtney

Branch: United States Marine Corps
Degree: Nutrition and Dietetics
Graduation: 2025

What are your plans after graduation? On to graduate school with hopes to pursue a career as a Physical Therapist or an Athletic Trainer

What do you do in your off time? In my off time I am either at the gym, playing disc golf or spending quality time with my husband and our pets.

Anything else you want to say? Semper Fi

Asia Vue in Military Marine uniform and civilian WCU clothing


 Asia Vue

Branch: U.S. Marine Corps
Degree: Parks and Recreation Management 
Minor: Forensic Anthropology
Graduation: Summer 2025

What are your plans after graduation? After graduation, I want to hike either the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.  For a career, I hope to work as an adventure travel guide or at a city/county parks and recreation center.  I also hope to work with military personnel and help them recreate outdoors.

What do you do in your off time?  On my off time, I like to read and watch movies, go hiking and camping, do crafts, and spend time with my dog.  

Anything else you want to say? WCU is a beautiful campus that offers many nearby outdoor recreation opportunities as well as amazing courses and events. 

Picture of WCU student John Hoover


John R. Hoover

Branch: U.S. Army Deep Sea Diver
Degree: Natural Resources Conservation and Management (BS)
Graduation: Spring 2021

What are your plans after graduation? 
I hope to work in federal service and out of doors, ideally with the USDA or the Department of the Interior.  I am still learning what all my options are, however I would prefer to continue to serve my community and nation.

What do you do in your off time? 
As the newly elected president of the WCU Student Veterans Association, I spend my off time bemoaning my fate, directing Soldiers is like herding cats, whether they are in or out of service.

Anything else you want to say?
WCU is a wonderful school, both it and the SVA have provided me with the perfect place to begin the next chapter of my life, while creating a community I care about.

Jeff Marcum


Jeff Marcum

Branch:  Air Force Veteran
Degree:  Masters of Project Management 
Graduation:  Summer 2019

What are your plans after graduation? 
After graduation I will continue to work in my position as a budget officer with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The skills I have gained in the Project Management curriculum are already helping me to provide better financial management of the department's numerous IT projects.  I have really enjoyed my experience in the program and appreciate the excellent faculty and fellow students who I have worked with over the past two years.

What do you do in your off time?  Hobbies? 
In my off time I enjoy reading, attending sporting events, travel, and the occasional game of golf. 

Anything else you want to say? 
I highly recommend the WCU Masters in Project Management program.  I feel like I have learned a great deal and was able to take away many practical tools that I can use in my job right away.  I would also like to thank the excellent support staff in Military Student Services who have made the journey so much easier.

Picture of Walter Colinders


Walter Colindres

Branch: Captain-US Army Air & Missile Defense Branch
Degree: Masters in Project Management (MPM)
Graduation: 2021

What are your plans after graduation?  
After obtaining my high-quality degree in Project Management from Western I plan to make the Major’s list, then put my newly acquired skills to work in the Air and Missile Defense Acquisition Corps or perhaps in the Missile Defense Test and Evaluation Command.

 What do you do in your off time?
 Being in the Army requires a lot of sacrifices and one of the most difficult one is being away from your family. When I do have some time off, I pack up and travel across-country with the wife and three boys on our travel trailer. Interesting fact: My family and I once drove from Anchorage, Alaska to Oklahoma, making our way through the amazing landscapes of the Canadian Yukon valley, Montana, and South Dakota. It only took us ten days!

Traveling, camping, visiting military historic sites, playing soccer, golfing, running, barbecuing and watching NFL/NBA games all day, and enjoying the good things life gives us.

Anything else you want to say?
There are so many Universities that provide online degrees to military students. I had the opportunity to attend many well-known Universities because of their sports and popularity. As a Hispanic, I selected Western Carolina because I believe in making college affordable and attainable for those that struggle to pay for college. Western is part of the North Carolina Promise to make college affordable and I love this movement and support it 100 percent. In addition, I have met amazing, funny and talented WCU alumni that lead the way in their career fields.

Picture of Joseph Henry McKenzie


 Joseph Henry McKenzie

Branch: USMC
Degree: Philosophy/ Religion/ Nursing
Graduation: 2021

What are your plans after graduation?
Travel Nursing and eventually open a Family Practice.
What do you do in your off time? Hobbies?
Usually a lot of going to the gym or debating in the philosophy department.

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