While walking back to his room from Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, Bryan Stascavage ’18 remembers telling a friend about his plans for the future.
“When I get out of the military, I’m going back to college with a vengeance,” Stascavage said. “A perfect 4.0 GPA or bust. I’m not messing around and wasting this opportunity like I did my first time around.”
His first time in college, which he attended right after high school, had been an “unmitigated disaster,” Stascavage recalls. He only lasted three semesters with a GPA hovering around a 2.0. After taking a wide array of courses at several community colleges in Connecticut, and then working as an apprentice for a writer in California, Stascavage joined the military as an intelligence analyst in August 2006.
“I joined for personal and patriotic reasons: the war in Iraq was going poorly, and I wanted to give my life meaning instead of feeling like I was perennially drifting,” he said. “I went in lazy; I came out with a healthy work ethic and desire to be the best at whatever I did. I went in lost; I came out with a deep appreciation of the benefits we have in America, with a much better understanding of the nature of the world, and with a fundamental desire to improve the world around me. The only thing standing in my way of accomplishing that goal was a piece of paper: a degree.”
After leaving the military, Stascavage enrolled at Norwalk Community College and began working towards an accounting degree. True to the 4.0-or-bust promise he made to himself, the semesters passed and Stascavage received perfect grades on his transcript. Focusing on his future, Stascavage had just started looking at four-year colleges when representatives from The Posse Foundation arrived on campus.
Posse, which has been around since the 1980s, is a program designed to give nontraditional students, recruited and vetted from high schools in inner cities, an opportunity to attend top colleges. In exchange for free tuition, these students are charged with changing the atmosphere on campus by assuming leadership roles. In 2013, veterans were added to the list of nontraditional students, and the inaugural class was accepted at Vassar. A year later, Wesleyan followed suit. In late 2013, after mountains of paperwork and a competitive group interview, Stascavage was accepted at Wesleyan and is working towards a degree in economics.
“My experience in intelligence allowed me to understand the true nature of the world, especially with respect to politics, diplomacy, military and relations, but there is another facet — the economy,” he said. “I want to understand how the economy works in order to have a better understand about how the world works. In other words, my personal view is that there are two great powers in this world — the military and the economy — and they both relate to each other directly. I need to understand the other half to have a complete picture.”