Student Spotlight: Ken Bingham, U.S. Navy

Cornell University Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

I was an average student in high school, and I was smart enough to skate by on good grades without needing to study. In doing so, I didn’t realize any academic passions. I tried college for two years and primarily learned quite painfully how poor a student I was, so I decided to “take a break” from school and enlist in the Navy. After boot camp, I was sent to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA where I earned an Associate’s Degree in Spanish. From all this, I learned I had the capacity to be a good student, and I needed to define for myself what my academic direction would be.

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

This is my first virtual learning program.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

Very much so! I hope to attend Cornell after getting out of the Navy. It’s fantastic to have the opportunity to learn from the very same professors that might be teaching me if I’m accepted to Cornell.

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

I have never before annotated a book while reading it. Going back and reflecting on my thought processes to particular passages really helps the material stick.

What was your favorite session, and why?

I really enjoyed the Declaration in Context and Constitutional Framework seminars. I’ve never offered so much critical thought about our founding documents. It was enlightening to think about both in a new light.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

All the instructors and fellows were awesome! Dr. Dani and Dr. Bujalski were a great dynamic-duo in teaching us good academic writing.

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

Absolutely! I’m constantly drawing parallels to the skills I’ve learned in the Navy and how I’ve been able to apply them in our virtual classroom. 

Harvard University Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

Because I enlisted in the Navy directly after high school, I had not had any experience with higher education prior to WSP. I’d taken some CLEP courses here and there to stay sharp, but re-entering an academic setting has been an exciting and nerve-wracking journey. I considered myself a confident student years ago, but now I’m open and ready to sharpen my skills and dive back in. 

Had you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

I had not participated in any virtual learning before WSP. I had somehow made it through 2020 without using Zoom or other video conference software at all. I was a bit nervous about the virtual WSP course because I had heard that virtual learning could be challenging. My WSP experience went smoothly, thanks to my team of fellows’ technical support and patience. 

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

As someone in the early stages of preparing for college and entering a major life change, I was most nervous that I would be doing it all blind and without context. I was most excited for WSP as an opportunity to acclimate to an academic setting in a comfortable and supportive environment. 

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

My first big takeaway was my insights into the academic writing process. The second thing I learned was a large, supportive veteran community for students exists, which was previously unknown to me.

What was your favorite session, and why?

I particularly enjoyed the session with professor Jonathan Hansen from Harvard. That was my first interaction with a professor, and it left an incredible impression on me. His passion was evident, and I realized that however nervous for school I may be, those are the types of people I’d like to be around on this new journey. 

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

My entire team of fellows was incredible. They were all welcoming and provided a wealth of knowledge. I gleaned the most from Mack Fina, one of my fellows attending Harvard University. He had some really useful insights and advice along the way. 

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

WSP has most definitely boosted my confidence. I wasn’t even entirely sure that school was feasible for me just months ago. I had figured that the adjustment to school would be too overwhelming. I left WSP with a much clearer path to school and exactly the confidence boost that I needed.

Texas A&M University Cohort and Georgetown University Cohort

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

My last traditional education experience was High School (from which I graduated in the prehistoric year of 2009). I was by no means exceptional, but I aspired to be capable. After arriving at A-School (the Navy’s term for occupational specialty training schools), it was clear that my previous conclusion of ‘meh’ was far too generous. Though my confidence was shaken, I tried my best to keep the gap as small as possible with time and effort. The fleet that followed didn’t help things either. Still, knowing this was for the foreseeable future as a result of a decision I made, I endeavored to do my best. Though I am still not confident in my innate abilities, I am confident in the systems I’ve instituted and the commitment I have. 

Have you participated in any sort of virtual learning before? If so, how does your WSP experience compare to that?

The Warrior-Scholar Project this summer was my first exposure to virtual learning. Though I have nothing to compare it to, I found it convenient and rewarding.  

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

Like eating my vegetables, I celebrate change with a furrowed brow and a reluctant acknowledgment of the benefits. The transition from active duty to college has been a giant source of dread. After being admitted to college, a catalog of all the things in my future that I knew nothing about started to build. The meaning of post-secondary reading and writing, the when’s and how’s of academic citations, or the definitions of an Oxford comma were all subjects that I lost sleep over. So I was beyond thrilled for the opportunity to participate in the Warrior-Scholar Project. I hoped for a glimpse into the unknown with professors who gave college-level lectures and fostered college-level discussions. I was also looking for a quick peek behind the curtain with college writing tutors and university research project leaders. I’m thankful to have gotten all that and more. The conversations with other WSP participants, fellows, and alumni about their lived experiences with this very same transition shed more light than I could have hoped for. 

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

The Warrior-Scholar Project introduced many vital skills to my’ tool kit’ as I prepare for college. For example, we were guided through analytical reading, persuasive writing, and introduced to MLA formatting during the humanities week. We learned the basics of Python, the problem-solving method, and the good habit of maintaining a formula sheet during STEM week. Although each skill seems relatively basic and straightforward, it was immensely helpful for someone that has been out of school for over a decade.

What was your favorite session, and why?

I don’t believe any session was not my favorite. Every part of the schedule was eye-opening in its own right. But if I had to pick, the most memorable part of the course was when I realized there was measurable progress in my capabilities. As someone who has not written a paper in many years and has never typed a line of code, I can now write good and print(bool(“Knows How To Code”)) – Maybe through Abby and Silvi’s infinite patience and insights.  

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you?

I believe each WSP fellow makes a difference for everyone in the cohort. Josh, Eric, Mac, Will, Brennen, Alec, Mary, and Oscar were all once participants and have decided to return because they wanted to help others. Their single-minded focus on bettering the participants’ future comes through clearly every early morning and every late night. Each has a uniquely personal experience and perspective of the upcoming transition, and all of them are endless resources. 

** Also, a sincere thank you to all the professors and host campus staff that so graciously gave their time to help service members and veterans in their academic pursuits. 

Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

With the obscurity of my future less complete and knowing that the WSP community does not only exist but is aggressively impatient to help is a great comfort. WSP has helped me become more confident as a student and as a veteran in higher education. 

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

Prior to WSP, I was attending community college full-time while serving in the Navy full-time. Due to having a full schedule, I usually felt defeated and exhausted from the course load. Although I am a stellar student, I often doubted my ability to maintain this standard and attended WSP to learn how to balance the two aspects of my life in a productive way.

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

WSP has taught me many critical skills that will help me fundamentally as a college student. However, the biggest lesson I took away from WSP is learning how to develop an “outside of the box” mindset. From the very beginning, the military emphasizes following orders or instructions to an exact point. When I entered the college community and realized that there were no blueprints or instructions to follow, the transition was extremely difficult. Throughout the business week, I was encouraged to find answers to problems with no set solution, plan for the unexpected, and find innovative ways to do even the smallest tasks. By taking these in-depth courses, I feel even more confident in my ability to tackle the unexpected challenges of college.

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite session was the Invanti entrepreneurial class taught by Dustin and Maria. Their in-depth lessons on what it means to be an entrepreneurial thinker were extremely insightful and have helped me immensely. I also really liked putting together a pitch for a company that I created and presenting it to experts in the startup industry. The feedback and encouragement that I received were amazing and has greatly encouraged me to think about starting my own business.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP?

Han Nguyen and Patrick Trujilo were absolutely amazing fellows! They were there for me every step of the way through this rigorous course and provided a lot of insight on what it takes to be a successful college student. Seeing that they were veterans in schools and positions that I aspire to be in has allowed me to believe that my goals and dreams are not only possible, but achievable.

What was your educational experience prior to WSP? Would you consider yourself a confident student?

I attended Baylor University for one semester prior to joining the Navy. Also, throughout my time on active duty, I took a few college courses online. I would not say I am a super confident student, but I know I am willing to work hard to succeed.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

Initially, it was for the academic learning aspect of the program, but as it continued, I valued the people significantly more. The professors were awesome, and learning from those smart individuals gave me a broader academic sense of mind. However, getting to interact with other veterans was the most rewarding part. Before the program, I was struggling with transitioning from active duty to civilian life because I lost that specific type of camaraderie. This program gave me that camaraderie again.

What have you learned so far that you think will be helpful as you pursue your degree?

I think what I have learned is a somewhat non-conventional answer. The best thing I learned from this program was balance. I don’t have to go all out on academics all the time to be successful. Part of college is learning who I am, even at 25, and this program reminded me of that. Balance isn’t something we are taught in the military, so now I can try to implement that into my life during college, so it is more enjoyable.

What was your favorite session, and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I have favorites in both the academic sessions and the fellow-led sessions. My favorite academic sessions out of the program were the seminars from Professor Fraga and Professor Dempsey. Although humanities will not be my avenue of study, their lectures really taught me the importance of taking an active role in government. Prior to their lectures, I had the mindset that my vote would never matter, but after hearing them talk about democracy and our country, it made me want to do more. In the fellow-led discussions, the “Making the Transition” session was my favorite. The fellows were awesome about being candid and letting us talk freely about things that have been hard in the transition. I honestly thought I was alone or being a wimp since I was having a difficult time transitioning, but that whole session validated my thoughts and reminded me that others were feeling the same.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you at WSP? Is WSP having any effect on how confident you feel as a student?

Oh man, this is another difficult one. All the instructors made a huge difference in my confidence, especially the writing professors, Mr. Capdevielle and Mr. Zurro. As far as fellows, I felt like Joseph Grillo, Matt Braaten, and Kahlil Ello were so supportive. I was able to have one-on-one conversations with them, ranging from interacting with students younger than me to philosophy. They really made it an inclusive environment, and it made me feel like I could actually do this whole college thing.