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Marissa Rock is a first year graduate student in the Speech-Language Pathology program. She served four years Active Duty in the Air Force as a Geospatial Intelligence Imagery Analyst and Weapons & Tactics Analyst.

 1. What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed in transitioning from military life to civilian life?

Independence! Military life revolves around teamwork, while civilian life revolves around independence. Your daily schedule and tasks to complete are spelled out for you in the military: everyone works together, exercises together, etc., but no matter what, the mission is always the priority. As a civilian, you’re in charge of your own schedule (other than class time). If you want, socializing or exercising can be your priority. Alas, it’s much more difficult to manage my time now because I always bring work home with me; that wasn’t allowed in Intel!

2. What is something you wish you had known before moving here?

I wish I knew more about the transportation situation. I just assumed that since I lived off campus I would get a campus parking pass. Boy, was I wrong! I ended up having to get a Park and Ride pass and take the bus to campus. After figuring out the bus system, when I moved to a different part of Chapel Hill last year, I made sure I was walking distance from a bus line since campus parking is a headache.

  1. What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in grad school?

I despised the saying “Shut up and color” in the military (meaning: just deal with it/do what you’re told because you’ll never “win” against someone who outranks you). I’m glad I hardly ever listened to that advice while serving. Instead, I taught myself how to speak up and advocate for myself. By learning that skill in the military, I was able to find tactful ways to ensure I didn’t come across as disrespectful. With so many superiors around in graduate school, I’ve been able to carry over that confidence and professionalism as I take the initiative to seek opportunities that will benefit my future career.

  1. What made you choose UNC/NC when deciding on a program/place to study?

I transferred into UNC from the military as an undergraduate junior, so at the time, I was interested in the Linguistics program: small and highly ranked…perfect! After spending two years here, I fell in love with the area and the idea of staying in one place for so long. Although resiliency became one of my strengths after serving, I wanted to avoid another big transition (even if it meant remaining apart from family). I had my fingers crossed for admission into the coveted Speech-Language Pathology program, and thankfully my wish came true!


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