This is the first installment of a series of interviews getting to know the veterans in the Posse program.
Bryan Stascavage ‘18 scheduled our interview for 6pm on Sunday at the Usdan tables, so he would have enough time to talk before he attended the WSA meeting, where he sits as the Vice Chair of Academic Affairs Committee. Only on campus for three months, Stascavage has made sure that his voice and political views are heard. He also wrote an opinion column for the Wesleyan Argus. Some of his views, he admits, might not be the most popular on a campus as liberal as Wesleyan. “Somebody might hit me with a hammer,” he joked. No one has hit him yet, but if they did his US Army training might come in handy.
Stascavage grew up about an hour away from Wesleyan in Danbury, CT. After High School, he attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute but, feeling that it wasn’t for him, moved to California for a stint as a camera operator and writer in Hollywood. In 2006, noticing that the war in Iraq was not going well for America, Stascavage felt that it was his duty to serve. His first tour in Iraq was from 2007 to 2008. In 2010, three days after the Haiti earthquake, he was deployed to survey the damage so that NGO’s — such as the International Red Cross — could help those in need. In late 2010, Stascavage was redeployed to Iraq for a year. He retired from service in 2012 and attended community college to earn an associate degree in accounting. While attending, he learned about the Posse program.
The Posse foundation, founded in 1989, ” identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential who may be overlooked by traditional college selection processes.” The program sends groups of ten students to campus where they are spread out among the general population. They also have weekly group meeting with a special Posse advisor. The intent is that the different perspectives will be good for the general student body and the Posse students will benefit from the experience as well. While the program started as a way to bring low income and minority students to campus, a few years ago Vassar realized that program could work for veterans. This is the first year the program is at Wesleyan University.
Stascavage first heard of Wesleyan during High School, when his team played Hockey at our ice rink. He wanted to come here because of the really good reputation — what he called the “little ivy” — and the potential for job opportunities after college. Another aspect of Wes that interested him was the activist community. It was “so far outside of my wheel house,” he said. “I like putting myself in these situations where I have to put myself in a new world.” Stascavage has inserted himself in the middle of some of Wes’ most contentious issues. In his Argus column, he has argued against fossil fuel divestment, accusing the movement of “junk food activism” which offers a distorted view of white privilege. Some feedback has been positive, some negative. Wes is very different than he expected, as he thought it would be full of mass protests and sit-ins. Even if there may be a lull in activism this semester, hopefully Wesleyan’s more radical elements begin to shine through.
Stascavage’s transition to Wes has been “extremely smooth.” While he expected Wes to be academically challenging, he is often humbled by his classmate’s intelligence. He is excited and happy to hear perspectives that he often does not hear, while also offering his own unique perspective in the classroom. For instance, he brings his “real world” perspective on national security into his American Gov class. In his theatre class, he acted as a sort of consultant to a classmate that wrote a play about surveillance.
Outside of the classroom, Stascavage often attends soccer or football games. He doesn’t feel particularly comfortable attending parties because there is, “something weird about being 30 and drinking with a bunch of 20 year olds.”
John Fought ’18 started our interview by telling me about his 4 year old daughter, Elsa, who, he stressed, was not named after the character in Frozen, a common misconception that John and his wife Jacquie did not foresee. Before becoming a father, Fought joined the army in February 2009, right after the financial collapse. He was stationed in Ft. Bragg, NC for five years where he worked as a parachute rigger for the 82nd airborne. He trained to be a psy op specialist, but got injured and had to drop out of the program. While he recovered, he took classes at a community college.
Fought decided to apply for the Posse program “on a whim.” He wasn’t too familiar with Wesleyan. While it was well ranked, he didn’t know much else about it. Upon further research, he was drawn to Wesleyan’s great science program, one of the best for a liberal arts college. When he was accepted as a semi-finalist in the Posse program, he was unsure if he would go through with it — the Posse recruiters were astonished as no one had ever turned down their offer — but he eventually accepted. One reason for accepting the Posse spot was the job prospects. Fought was well aware of the tough job market for recent graduates but thought that Posse’s strong alumni and support network gave him the connections to “pretty much do whatever [he] want[s].”
Like Stascavage, Fought thought that Wes was going to be a real life caricature of the movie PCU. He expected the student body to be hostile to veterans, viewing them as “baby killers.” However, he has been amazed at how well the veterans have been received, regardless of where people fall on the political spectrum. Just to give an example, on Veterans Day the top yik yak post stated, “To all the veterans on campus: we are all in awe of you and admire you for your bravery in and out of the classroom. Thank you for being a part of our student body; seriously, we love you all.” A similar yak directly addressed Fought’s concerns: “Many American wars have been fought for a conservative, imperialist agenda, and not to protect our freedom. But the people who fought in those wars are not at fault. Don’t blame veterans for politics.”
Fought has not had so easy a transition. As one might expect, moving his family across the country has been quite a struggle. He’s had to deal with “real life” problems that many Wes students won’t have to think about for years, such as finding a job for his wife (she eventually found one at University Relations), enrolling his daughter in pre-school and finding health insurance. The academics have also been a challenge; he is dealing with material he hasn’t seen since high school ten years ago. To make matters worse, his first few weeks at Wes were spent recovering from lyme disease that he contracted from a tick his first week here.
Outside the classroom, Fought spends his time working with the Wesleyan Entrepreneurship Society and the Investment Club. He plans to do more, but wants to get adjusted first. Now he is focusing on recruiting fellow students for a Posse retreat during the last week of February. Contact him at jfought[at]wesleyan[dot]edu for more details!