Undergrad helps other vets make the transition to civilian life

April 16, 2015
Brandman student Sabrina Lee (standing) speaks with students at Mira Costa College about improving their public speaking skills.

Sabrina Lee (standing) speaks with students at Mira Costa College about improving their public speaking skills.

It wasn’t that long ago that Sabrina Lee, a 13-year member of the U.S. Marine Corps, was wondering what life would be like without a uniform.

Fortunately for Lee, a lucky meeting put her in contact with Kath Bates, assistant professor in human resources and organizational leadership, just as she was reviewing her options for going to school on the post 9/11 GI Bill.

“I knew I was going back to school and was looking at different programs, but I couldn’t really find one that was tailored to my needs,” said Lee. She soon discovered that Brandman’s San Diego campus offered just the setting and courses she was interested in and enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts for organizational leadership program.

Heavily immersed in Brandman coursework, Lee spends a good part of each week volunteering at the Veterans Association Resource Center in Oceanside helping active military members as they prepare for life without a uniform through the Career Transition Assistance Program (CTAP).

The program is designed for people in their last 365 days of active duty who may be leaving the military for any number reasons, including retirement, medical separation or opting not to re-enlist. Lee and other volunteers help them build résumés, work on interviewing skills, create LinkedIn profiles and even dress for success.

She’s learned in making her own transition from military to civilian life that the biggest obstacle to overcome is the unknown.

“I’m happy to be alive, happy to have made it through 13 years with a smile on my face. When it comes to making the transition from military to civilian, the biggest issue is the unknown. It’s spooky. You wonder, ‘how am I going to fit in?’ Those unknowns are really hard.”

They may be hard, but Lee has conquered them despite a few confessed bumps in the road as she adjusted to being a full-time student.

“Sabrina is an outstanding representative for Brandman as a student,” said Bates. “Did I mention she is amazing?”

Bates has teamed up with Lee to make presentations at Mira Costa Community College. Lee said a recent session introducing community college students to public speaking concepts left her impressed with how willing younger adults are to take responsibility for their actions.

While public speaking and making presentations comes easily to Lee now, she says that wasn’t always the case. Her time in the Marines as a drill instructor and later teaching her peers helped her value communication skills and eventually led to her work as a trainer with DISCFlex, an assessment service that helps people understand their own behaviors and how they might be affecting others.

“I do a lot of individual consulting. I help them build the skills for being able to communicate better,” said Lee.

Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, Lee wants to continue into a master’s program with public administration, communication and industrial psychology all possible options. Her eventual goal is work as an equal opportunity representative or diversity chief.

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