My name is Jonathan Novak. I am in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences majoring in Biology with a specialization in Natural Sciences. Military service is a tradition on both sides of my family. We have served in every major conflict since World War I – often in multiple branches. Part of that familial military tradition is that the youngest member of the family who is a pilot or airborne is charged with the safekeeping of my grandfather’s wings he earned in route to WW2 and, before I joined, an older cousin who I am competitive with was the bearer of the wings so naturally I had to get a pair myself to get them from him. I have always had great admiration for the United States Paratrooper so when it came time for me to choose a branch I chose to go was the Army Airborne.
My goal is to get my MD-PhD at the University of Florida and join the fight against Cancer as a Physician-Scientist. I have not started working my field yet but will be applying to the University of Florida’s College of Medicine in January of 2019. As a veteran, I have yet to find any study space at UF that competes with the CVSC. There is a space to relax and socialize, there is a space to collaborate and instruct, and there is a space to quietly and individually study. We often have recruiters come directly to us, food catered, and coffee to drink. On top of that, you are surrounded by people who know UF and Gainesville that are more than willing to share their knowledge with you.
The CVSC, also known as “The Center” as we colloquially refer to it, has been my metaphorical FOB for most of my time at the University of Florida. Some students may choose to go to Starbucks, swing through the POD, and then walk over to the Reitz to print something. I am someone who places a lot of stock in keeping things simple so being able to be either a) in class or b) in the CVSC is an unmatched benefit. I am someone who learned after joining the military that it wasn’t a lifestyle that was right for me long term and I quickly realized I would be leaving after my first term. Ironically, the military lifestyle was the same thing that prepared me to take that leap into the unknown and head down the college path. The CVSC provides a place to “weather the storm” so to speak. My transition from military to a civilian has been relatively smooth and an overall positive experience but – as I’m sure other veterans can relate – sometimes the culture of where I am clashes with the culture of where I came from. However, the CVSC is a great way for me to connect with other people who have found a way to find a happy medium as well as others who are still in the process.
One person who played a significant role at the center is Charlotte Kemper. Charlotte Kemper whom is our VetSuccess On Campus Counselor is the definition of SME when it comes to the interface between the University of Florida and the unique requirements asked of her veterans. If an issue rears its head in that domain, CK can either fix it or connect you with the person who can. Mrs. Kemper’s personality is also so conducive to working with veterans that I genuinely didn’t believer her when she told me she wasn’t one herself. Having a VSOC Counselor on Campus must save UF’s veterans thousands of hours per semester, there is no replacing them.