Student Spotlight: Keanu Spindola, USMC

University of Southern California Cohort

Where were you in your academic journey when you completed your WSP academic boot camp? 

I was wrapping up my community college courses and was applying to a couple of universities in my area.

Where are you now in your academic journey? If you are enrolled in school, where? What are you majoring in? 

This past winter, I just started business school at Santa Clara University, majoring in management and minoring in construction management.

How did what you learned at WSP help you get to where you are today?

As a first-generation college student, I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options or support when it came to pursuing higher education. As a result, I joined the Marine Corps, where I gained the grit and determination needed to accomplish whatever I set my mind to. However, I didn’t think that was applicable to higher education. WSP helped me realize my potential as a student veteran and reinforced that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to as veterans.

What’s the best part of being a WSP alumnus?

While serving in the military, there was a unique sense of camaraderie and trust among one another. I am fortunate to have the same kind of people in the WSP alumni group. Whatever we need, we know that there’s someone that we can reach out to that will give us a hand. 

What advice do you have for other vets or service members who might want to pursue higher education?

If you think you are not smart enough. Have doubts about your ability to succeed in academia because of your past grades. Or, “insert whatever excuses you use”, that’s ok because I thought that too. What you’re feeling is entirely normal! School will not be easy, but you learn a thing or two in the military that you can use to succeed in higher education. There are many experiences, memories, and friends to make in this new chapter of your life, so keep an open mind and see where it takes you! 

Do you have a post-education career goal in mind? What is it?

As my time in the Marine Corps was ending, I began looking into entrepreneurship because I felt that I had learned how to lead a team and manage an operation. My dad has owned his business for the last 20 years, so I decided to join the team and grow the family business.

California Institute of Technology Cohort and Cornell University Cohort

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

Before joining WSP, I attended various community schools to attain my associate’s degree. I did not consider myself a confident student while attending post-service schooling. But my mindset changed while attending WSP, and I gained skills for my future education. 

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

I had previously participated in virtual learning, but nothing compares to the WSP experience. WSP’s virtual learning experience has taught me that there is a possibility for true discussions, collaborations, and communication while in a virtual learning environment. This was completely different from what I’ve experienced before. 

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was excited to participate in WSP this summer due to my hopes for the program. I hoped to see this program be in a learning environment with like-minded individuals with a commonality of background: the military culture, life, and views. 

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

I learned various essential skills while participating in WSP. Those skills include social and educational communication, study skills, and dissecting information. These are crucial skills that are needed for future education opportunities that will ensure success in school. Other skills that I learned during WSP are reviewing techniques and making important notes to comprehend materials for the course (mainly readings). 

What was your favorite session, and why?

I can confidently say that my favorite part was the writing workshops. They allowed me to challenge myself and attain feedback regarding my writings. I have received valuable input that will be crucial for my transition to college. 

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

All the instructors and fellows have made a difference in their own way. With Jazzmen, I built a connection with our similarities in life that made me feel comfortable to speak at ease. Harry’s comedic input and direct communication method helped me retain information and make notes for future use. Manny’s earnest and humble communication methods and directions also made me feel comfortable asking questions and keeping an open mind. When Ethan spoke, it made me pay attention to his words. His method of communicating made me feel at ease to ask questions. Whether I was right or not, he made me feel comfortable still providing answers and comments without feeling lost.

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

WSP had had a positive effect on my confidence as a student. I feel that I am more prepared for future avenues that my academic goals may take me. I no longer feel mentally or academically unprepared for the next steps. This experience was worthwhile!

Amherst College Cohort

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

Before joining the military, I had taken a full year of college. During my enlistment, I used Tuition Assistance to take two classes a semester at a community college. Two months before starting WSP, I finished up my last course there. I find that my level of confidence changes from subject to subject. Overall I’d say I’ve never been very confident when it comes to schoolwork.

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

I had taken online classes before, but nothing like WSP. Those were run on either Blackboard or Canvas and had more of a “teach yourself” model. Although the professors were available for help, it felt very independent. Since WSP took place over Zoom, it felt more immersive than the virtual learning I grew accustomed to. I liked interacting with the instructors, fellows, and other scholars in real-time.

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I was looking forward to gaining the skills necessary to help ease me back into attending college full time. I was also excited to connect with other veterans starting their college careers back up.

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

The studying skills taught by the fellows on the third day of instruction will be really helpful. I’m not the best at studying, so the tips we were taught made me realize that there’s a much easier and more effective way to structure and go about studying.

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite session was the lecture with professor Cullen Murphy and Thomas Ricks. I felt like I could have listened to them talk all day! Not only were each of the lecturer’s interesting to listen to, but the discussion was very fluid and engaging.

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

All the fellows and instructors were great and essential to helping me work through WSP. The writing instructors, Cassie Sanchez and Roy Andrews helped me immensely improve my writing abilities in such a short amount of time.

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

My confidence has definitely been boosted since completing WSP. I feel more prepared for this upcoming school year and plan to use all the skills I learned as best as I can!

Humanities Cohort

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

Before WSP, I received an associate’s degree from the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Pashto. Although I was already confident in my learning abilities, I was looking to get better and more confident in writing.

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

Yes, the WSP experience was much more structured and organized. I also didn’t notice as many technical difficulties from both the instructor and student side as in my previous virtual learning course.

One thing I think is better about the virtual course versus an in-person course is the chat section. We were all able to share our responses and connect without taking up too much time or interrupting the flow of the class. 

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

I wanted to get better at writing and see what I could expect from college.

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

I learned about some resources I can utilize and tips for college success.

What was your favorite session, and why?

I enjoyed the writing sessions because it was engaging and laid out well. I can apply the lessons learned during these sessions to my writing.

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

The instructors and fellows were great, specifically the writing instructors Maria, Liza, and Tess. They gave such positive, encouraging feedback that helped me get in the right direction for my writing.

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

Yes, I feel more confident in my writing. Learning how to do process writing was helpful because in the past, I would get stuck on what to write because I wasn’t sure if it sounded right or was stated in the best way. I also feel that I can better contribute to academic discussions without feeling like I don’t belong.

Humanities Cohort

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

I graduated high school as the first male in my family in several generations. I went to college in California after finishing my time in service but dropped out because of financial and mental health reasons. However, I was/am a confident man and student; this course strengthened my belief in myself.

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

Yes, I have participated in virtual learning. WSP was an arduous curriculum because of time constraints. It felt like a total submersion in several realms. (The humanities/writing portion as well as college success portion)

Why were you excited to participate in WSP?

I am not sure I had any “excitement,” more of “nervousness,” not knowing what to expect from the course. Those nerves were calmed after the first day because I understood the assignments and the direction the course was going to take. 

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

I have learned that I am much more prepared to jump back into higher education than I felt. I learned about financial aid opportunities and how to communicate effectively and openly with professors and school staff. 

What was your favorite session, and why?

My favorite session was the open conversations with fellow students about the texts we covered. Hearing others opinions, insights, and ideas made this entire experience more enjoyable and relatable. 

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

All of the fellows from WSP were engaging, kind, and thoughtful. Travis was very expressive in his beliefs, making the course more personal. Luis was forthcoming about his good and bad experiences, which measured expectations for school. The tutors were patient and understanding while articulating what needed to be done. 

Columbia University Cohort

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

Currently, I attend Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where I have a full year of college education. I have been confident in completing any tasks and challenges proposed by the academic community. But I humbly said that each day I will become more knowledgeable in this field of education.

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

I had a couple of virtual learning experiences. One is the infamous annual training requirement through Marine Net, and the other is being a full-time student at Rutgers University in the spring semester of 2019. WSP shocked me and ensured that every message or learning goal was communicated to every student. I will repeat that I thank and appreciate the logistics, the fellows, WSP Staff, and professors for conducting an amazing course!

Why were you excited to participate in WSP this summer?

After I received the notice to participate in WSP this summer, I was ECSTATIC! I felt like things were lining up perfectly in my life and that I was awaiting another challenge to put in my belt. These “challenges” I refer to are my stepping stones towards success. Lastly, this experience enabled me to understand the rigorous academic schedule in an Ivy League school setting.

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

The major components that WSP exposed me to are attending office hours for all classes throughout the course and “de-greening.” Both of which are vital in academia.

What were you looking forward to learning during STEM week?

I was looking forward to STEM week because my goal is to obtain an engineering degree. Let’s just say that I was lost for words during STEM week and will forever remember my experience.

What research project did you work on, and what did you learn from that experience?

My research was based on objects and projectile motion. I calculated the velocity and time it will take for a rocket of my choosing to reach a destination both in and out of our solar system. I used the rocket equation (The Tsiolkovsky Rocket Equation) to my advantage and incorporated my son into my project, making it more exciting and worthwhile! Since he was a toddler, he would sing all the planets in order and the dwarf planets. Hence, as my destination, I chose a dwarf planet called Makemake and revealed the coding necessary to complete the mission.

Are there any instructors or fellows who have made a difference for you this week so far?

Max and Frankie are incredible! Fully responsible and will always understand that at the end of the day we are all human beings and we need to be there for one another. They gave me this sense of brotherhood and were always respectful. Their hospitality was on point and they worked with such poise that it made the virtual environment a great place to be in. Even more than that, they helped me solve physic problems and instructed me during humanities week.

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

YES..YES..and YES! After this course, I feel invincible. This course allowed me to understand my eagerness to be the best student as possible and confirmed that I’m in the right place! Thank you, WSP!