U.S. Marine Veteran Resigns from Full-Time Position to attend RCBC and Earn Her Degree
Friday, Dec 01, 2023

Katherine Ruelan served in the U.S. Marine Corps for five years before attending Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC). Before joining RCBC, she worked as a supervisor at an engineering manufacturing company, where she gained valuable experience. Initially, she was uncertain about her life's direction and whether returning to school was the right choice. However, her manager recognized her potential and actively encouraged her to pursue higher education.

Growing up in an environment that emphasized the importance of higher education and attending college after high school, she assumed that she would follow in the footsteps of her friends and learn more about college life. However, when a Marine recruiter visited her music class, she began to reconsider her military option.

"I thought to myself, I could go to college at any age; you can't really do that with the military,” Ruelan said.

Ruelan attended a boot camp soon after graduating high school in the summer of 2014. She openly expressed, while laughing, that she hated the idea of exercising. Relying on her recruiter's word, she found it more difficult than he had led on. However, Ruelan overcame her dislike for working out and grew to appreciate the experience.

Throughout that period, she encountered numerous obstacles, such as unfair treatment and separation from her loved ones. She yearned for the encouragement and solidarity she previously received from other women outside the military. She felt disheartened as she realized that her friends and family were creating memories without her.

She has traveled extensively throughout her career, from South Carolina to California, Texas and finally to Okinawa, Japan. While stationed in Japan as a radio repair technician, she rediscovered her passion for engineering. After leaving the Marines, she moved to the Moorestown area to focus on mechanical engineering.

Leaving the military was challenging for her, but it taught her valuable lessons and opened new opportunities. She found solace and companionship at the Military and Veterans Center. Meeting other students who had faced similar situations gave her a sense of belonging. 

The Veteran Center has provided me and the other veterans that hang out there a support system,” she said.

Ruelan expressed that enlisting in the military has afforded her a multitude of opportunities in life. She states. "Being able to go to school full-time, not work and pay my bills, is invaluable." She encouraged all service members to take advantage of the abundant resources and options. Ruelan is determined to earn her associate degree in engineering by spring of 2024 and is actively researching Ivy League universities with tailored resources for veterans.