Meet Lissette Matos Minehart.
Year and major: Senior/Spanish
Branch/Rank: U.S. Army/Sergeant
Service: 3 tours (Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait) 7 years active, 4 years reserve
Tell us about your service experience. You deploy. You come back. Suddenly you’re not with your unit, your family. You can feel isolated. The biggest obstacle was re-integrating into society. For example, I’m not quite as outgoing, and don’t put myself or my children into crowded situations. You have to learn to mentally adapt. But the military gave me coping skills and tolerance. I learned that we will not get along with everyone we meet, but we still need to work together to accomplish the common goal. I learned that a human life is precious, no matter what someone thinks, their race or their personal preference; they breathe the same air and bleed red like me, and we should care for and protect one another. I also learned patience. The real world stops spinning on deployment. Back home, the music changes. Shows and gas prices change. You have to readjust.
Any favorite classes? Spanish classes with instructor Maria Gonzalez and Dr. Jorge Majfud have been my favorites. Both of them allow open dialogue in class and let us speak about different topics. Dr. Majfud is so cultured and well-rounded that he brings a unique perspective to many different subjects. Psychology Prof. James November was also great.
Tell us about JU’s role in your transition to civilian life. At first, it wasn’t easy, and I questioned if I made the right choice coming here. I was overwhelmed and I wasn’t going to fit in. It wasn’t until halfway through my first semester that I found the SVA, where I connected with other veterans. I also was introduced to the shooting team, where I sharpened my shooting skills and felt like I was part of a team again. And the VA reps and faculty here also gave me one-on-one time. JU has so many different opportunities for students to find “their place.” And when they do, they become part of a “family,” not just a face in the crowd.
What sets JU apart? JU has a low student-to-teacher ratio, which allows ample time with our instructors. The faculty is always so helpful and receptive, even if you are not a student in their department. I enjoy that I can walk into different offices and am welcomed with a smile and asked how everything is going. Here at JU, we are real people who mean something — not just another student, a number, passing through the halls. We mean more than just the tuition; we come to learn from others and make a difference in their lives and in the lives of our peers.
What might surprise others about you? I’m older than I look — I have two little girls. I went to Englewood High School and played soccer, softball, flag football and tennis, but I wanted to row when I came to JU. I first got to experience JU in 1999 when I came here after my freshman year of high school for the Upward Bound program. I used to spend my high school summers on campus in the dorms going to class at JU. The “valley” (between the dorms and main campus) was empty; we once played tennis where there is now a parking lot.
Meet the other students we’re recognizing during the Month of Heroes, learn more about our military students and alumni here on Wave Magazine, or visit the Veterans and Military Resource Center online to learn how JU serves those who’ve served.