A West Virginia University student veteran is in elite company as one of only 18 women chosen for the 2022 Focus Forward Fellowship, a prestigious year-long mentoring program designed to support women with military connections.
Amanda Valentine, who is currently working on her master’s degree in business administration along with a graduate certificate in forensic accounting and fraud examination in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, first learned about the opportunity to connect with mentors nationally, develop new skills and gain confidence in problem solving through the University’s Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs.
“Focus Forward has been awesome. They found a mentor for me to give me advice on how to advance my career once I finish my classes,” Valentine said. “I’ve also gained a group of like-minded ladies who I can share with. We cheer each other on, provide guidance and we’re just generally there for each other. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had that and it’s refreshing to be a part of something like that again.”
Valentine was a high school track standout in Buffalo, West Virginia, who headed to Glenville State University after graduation. She was there a year before the realities of her new-found freedom set in by way of academic suspension.
“Once I realized I couldn’t get back into school, I knew I needed to enter the military or end up unhappy for the rest of my life,” Valentine said.
Valentine joined the U.S. Air Force, eventually finishing her undergraduate degree while serving with posts and deployments that took her around the world from Alaska to Korea.
When she retired in 2014, she wasn’t sure what was next. With the GI Bill, she decided to go back to school, entering the MBA program at WVU.
Valentine hopes to finish her degree and certificate next summer and is counting on her Focus Forward Fellowship colleagues to keep her on track.
For the initiative from the Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University, Focus Forward fellows are chosen through a competitive process. The 2022 cohort includes veterans, active-duty military members and those with the National Guard from 14 colleges and universities.
The Focus Forward Fellowship program is supported with funding from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and corporate sponsors.
“We are very proud of all of our roughly 1,200 military-connected and veteran students at West Virginia University, represented by the Center for Veteran, Military and Family Programs,” Jerry Wood, Center director, said. “Programs like the one at Purdue University are incredible opportunities for folks like Amanda to go beyond the University and state footprint, to participate with like-minded peers within the veteran community and to learn from one another as they prepare themselves for life after college. We are incredibly proud of her selection and look forward to watching her future unfold.”