Published: Feb. 28, 2021

Original article can be found at CU Independent
Originally published on February 28, 2021 By Alexander Edwards

CU student veterans Nisa Joval and Reed Robins discuss the transition to higher education. (Alexander Edwards / CU Independent)

The University of Colorado’s Center of the American West hosted a discussion Friday focused on how the distinct worlds of military service and university life can join together. The students on the panel, Nisa Jovel and Reed Robins, share a common trait: they both served in the American armed forces before transitioning to student life at CU.

Jovel spent four years in the Marine Corps, serving as an aviation operations specialist. She is a double major, studying integrated physiology and anthropology. Robins served in the Navy for six years as a nuclear electrician. He is studying economics with an emphasis on public policy.

In large part due to their outside life experience, student veterans have unique perspectives on how higher education can function better. Or if not better, then different so that it may be more accessible for different people with different life experiences.

“A lot of students don’t really have a larger goal, they’re just going to school,” Robins said. “There has to be a larger purpose.”

Jovel nodded in agreement as Robins spoke, but also added her take on the question.

“Maybe we should have a course that, instead of you learning what to think, you learn how to think,” She said.

For both Jovel and Robins, attending college was never a question. It was on the list for both of them. Their paths to the military, however, could not have been more different.

“For me, I actually knew I wanted to join when I was about 13 years old,” Jovel said.

With her choice made, Jovel began joining enlistment candidates for weekly workouts at a recruiting station. Despite the intensity of the weightlifting, runs, and military training, Jovel said she fell in love with it. Later in her career, she would graduate Marine Corps Infantry Training at Camp Lejeune.

Robins on the other hand found himself in college without a long-term goal. He felt unhappy and not motivated to complete his degree after working with a graduate in his field. This led him to dropping out of college and enlisting.

“My grandma knew someone who was in the Navy and told me, ‘The Navy always needs nukes,’” Robbins said. “I was like: well, what’s that? Let’s go find out.”

In this sense, a “nuke” does not refer to a nuclear warhead but rather a nuclear technician. Robins’ job was to maintain shipborne nuclear powerplants that power aircraft carriers and submarines.

With their time in the military complete, the marine and sailor made their way to college. Both felt it was an important step to take for their post-military careers. For the two of them, the transition back to civilian life as a student was a surprising one.

“I really had to humble myself,” Jovel said. “Not everyone really cares that I was a veteran.”

CU Boulder’s Center of the American West seeks to create a forum where ideas and perspectives can be shared. It is the hope of the center that these ideas can help find solutions to the region’s difficulties.

The event on Friday was the first of a series the Center of the American West will be hosting. The next event will be Friday, March 5 at 12:00. It will be held virtually.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alexander Edwards at