Hard Work and Helpfulness

For cadets, hands-on professional experience doesn’t have to wait until graduation. Tiziana Ortega,
’24, has already sampled gym administration, career education and supply chain management through three separate internships.

Ortega’s first internship took place at the Ethos Athletic Club. “Our main goal was having cheerful energy to welcome people to the gym,” she said. Ortega chose this internship partly because one of the owners, Joey Welling, ’09, is a Citadel graduate.

“I like to give back to people who helped me, and I can do that by helping others.”

Because Ortega coordinated the internship through The Citadel Career Center, her real- world experiences also count as three credit hours. “It was a fun environment,” she said, “and I got to know what opening a business is like. The people are so driven, and they navigated the whole process in the middle of a pandemic.”

Ortega’s next internship with the Career Center began in January. “It’s a great community within that little house,” she said, referring to the center’s offices in former faculty housing across from Hagood Gate. “I never saw it as an opportunity to work on campus until they reached out to me. Two weeks later, I had a fun job right after classes, helping other cadets write resumes, prepare for interviews and build LinkedIn profiles.”

Cadets often seek assistance during drop-in hours. “I helped a lot of cadets during rank boards,” Ortega said. “Getting a thank-you text from classmates after helping them with their resume always makes me feel good.”

The internship has also improved Ortega’s own communication and networking skills. “I’m already planning my hours for the fall semester,” she said. “I’m excited because I will have more opportunities to lead. I’ll be contacting employers and helping them get set up on campus.”

As she awaits the new academic year, Ortega is spending her summer in Charleston interning with Gnosis Freight. This logistics company develops software for tracking shipments in one suite. “I like to give back to people who helped me, and I can do that by helping others,” she said. “I like to see everyone succeed.” As a business administration major with a concentration in supply chain management, Ortega knows that helpfulness is a commodity that should be continuously delivered.

Code Name: Peer Tutor

At one point or another, most humans have become lost in the digital void with nothing but a mouse for
a compass. That’s why the Student Success Center employs cadets like Dalton Hazelwood, ’24, to help cadets and students navigate the grid with confidence.

Hazelwood is double majoring in computer science and cyber operations with a minor in data science, yet the students he tutors come from a variety of disciplines, such as business majors pursuing the data science minor. “As a subject-area tutor,” he said, “I can work with students across a multitude of classes even if I have not taken the class because I understand the concepts that class needs.”

Computer science is one of the most popular tutoring disciplines, along with math, physics and writing. In fact, the Student Success Center provides tutoring for 21 subject areas, including chemistry, engineering and modern languages. And the list of subjects available is still growing; nursing and intelligence studies were added in time for the center’s 2021-2022 academic year, which overall saw more than 4,000 appointments with over 700 students.

Like all subject-area tutors, Hazelwood does not give answers; instead, he offers individualized assistance to students until they can figure out the solutions on their own. “We try to help them actually understand the content,” he said. In his case, that content often involves high-level coding languages.

Many students find the computer science lab a useful place to study on their own. And if they happen to get stuck on an assignment, a peer is on standby to assist. “Even if you finish your computer science assignment,” Hazelwood said, “just be in the room. Hear the conversations going on; you might pick up on something that you were kind of lost on before and learn more.”

“It’s inspiring to see others smile after they complete an assignment they had been struggling with.”

Likewise, Hazelwood learns new ways of thinking from those he tutors. “I love their presence,” he said. “I like tutoring because it’s inspiring to see others smile after they complete an assignment they had been struggling with.” The interaction enriches tutor and tutee, transferring knowledge and a smile.

Escape to Reality

“The scenario is this,” said Brett Polen, ’23, “students have been stuck at home. Our goal is to get them back out there interning, researching and preparing for life after college.” Polen, an Army Reserve veteran, knows the value of relationships. A resident of Durango, Colorado, he entered The Citadel’s online Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership in 2021, and since then he has made a point of building connections all the way from the Centennial State.

When Polen heard about the Student Affairs’ Virtual Case Study competition, he knew this could be his chance to connect with his Citadel peers. “I shot an email to all my classmates,” Polen said, “indicating that I’d love to create a team to compete.” The message resonated with other online students who wanted more than a degree—they wanted camaraderie.

“Even as a graduate student with a full-time job and friends all around you,” Polen said, “there is still that need for one-on-one connection. Regardless of whether you’re taking a program online or enrolled in a traditional path, get involved with other students who are going through what you’re going through. No matter what age you are, there’s that little piece that gets filled by being part of a group.”

Because Polen’s team is studying higher education leadership, they designed their case study to educate participants about how to safely and effectively restore on-campus engagement after COVID. They formatted their case study as an interactive, virtual escape room in which participants navigate different multimedia pathways. If they get stuck, they can click on a photo of G3, the college’s mascot, for a clue. The team worked remotely a few times a week for the next month. “It moved from discussion groups that I would participate in as needed to texting back and forth,” Polen said. “The case study made me feel like a traditional grad student.”

Getting students involved and interacting is a large part of Polen’s work as assistant director of the career and life design center at Fort Lewis College. He knows what campus engagement looks like and brought his expertise to his online classes. “I have appreciated the online program at The Citadel,” he said, “because it’s been flexible and my professors have been very accessible.” More than wireless connections, Polen found his place in The Citadel network, confirming Citadel bonds run deeper than the web.

Working Out Logistics

“We were in Bastin Hall, and we had the big board,” said Montray Robinson, ’22, president of The Citadel chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. “We wrote on it for 12 hours!”

The 12-hour weekend brainstorming session occurred during Ideathon, a logistics competition that promotes problem solving in real-world scenarios. Robinson and another cadet engineer had teamed up with two business majors to represent The Citadel. Their challenge was to figure out how to decarbonize oil production most efficiently. Their solution had to fit within a given set of constraints and a logistics chart.

“We shared all parts of the project,” said Robinson. “If one of us had a stronger sense behind one thing, we would pick it up.”

One of Robinson’s duties was to verify each component for content and accuracy. “We all sat there with our legs crossed, looking at the board, thinking, figuring out the math,” he said.

“We shared all parts of the project.”

Eventually, the team needed to step away from the problem altogether. “We took a break to get some Chinese food. Then, the solution hit all of us almost at the same time… We didn’t get back to the barracks until 1:00 a.m.”

Freshly inspired, the team returned to the drawing board to make sure their solution would fit within the budget. “Our goal was to come in at less than $8 million. In oil costs, we hit around $6 million, which was the best we could have done. The other teams did a little more than $8 million. I think that’s what gave us the edge.”

The two-day competition culminated in Grimsley Hall with a multimedia presentation by each team. “The Citadel has definitely taught me how to be strict about time management and how to take care of high-stake situations,” Robinson said. “The experience was worth the effort. I wouldn’t want to have done it any other way.”

Service is Always in Season

For Citadel cadets, spring break is often an opportunity to make a difference. Cadet Princess Lopez, ’25, used her spring furlough to serve with the Krause Center’s Alternative Break Program on Bulls Island and Waccamaw Island. “It was a great experience because I was already interested in community service,” she said. “I want to make a difference.”

A member of The Citadel’s service-based Rotaract Club, Lopez was excited to learn that she could serve alongside cadets who have the same passion. “The good thing about being at The Citadel,” she said, “is learning to overcome and adapt. It offers classes that no other college has and prepares us to face challenges.”

“The good thing about being at The Citadel is learning to overcome and adapt.”

On the islands, Lopez and seven other cadets rebuilt wooden pedestrian bridges and cleared natural debris. “The work we did helps the environment and communities we’re surrounded by,” she said.

Service learning is the cornerstone of Citadel culture, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that cadets have earned a reputation on service sites for being hard workers who finish tasks ahead of schedule. When Lopez and her team finished their work, they climbed trees, grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, and went kayaking. Alternative Break inspired Lopez to dedicate her summer to service as well. She was part of The Citadel’s Service to Underserved Children, a program that helps Charleston-area youth advance their academic skills over summer break.

Volunteer work is just one way Lopez gives back. When she’s not participating in service activities, Lopez is active in cheerleading, rugby, the Chinese Club and the Ranger Challenge team. “There are so many opportunities at this school—some you don’t even have to look for,” Lopez said. “It’s important to be open-minded. Versatility is a good thing.”

Mediterranean Mediation

Five thousand miles from Charleston, in the northwestern Italian coastal city Sanremo, David McBain, ’22, and his Dutch teammate earned second place in the Law of Armed Conflict competition at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law’s Competition for Military Academies this spring. McBain, a political science major, was one of four cadets representing The Citadel.

“There’s a sense of pride that you bring to the table when you come from The Citadel.”

In the competition, cadets participated in a mock Allied coalition in conflict with an Axis power. When a top-secret memo delivered to McBain’s team revealed that their government had secretly been using white phosphorous munitions, it wasn’t long before the news was leaked, and McBain found himself the center of attention. “Everyone looked at me and asked if it was true,” he said. McBain stood up, solemnly looked around the room and acknowledged that the news was true. “It was one of those moments,” he said, “when we got away from reality and had some fun with the competition.”

Cadets from around the world bonded outside the competition, too. They explored the city, immersed themselves in the culture, swam in the icy Mediterranean Sea and enjoyed the local cuisine.

“I could probably throw a rock from our hotel’s doorstep to the Mediterranean,” he said. “It was right on the Riviera. We found this hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant. The owner welcomed all nine of us, and we crowded around a six-person table. We stayed there until the place closed down, telling stories and eating the best Italian seafood I’ve ever had.”

The Citadel cadets made lifelong international friends and received compliments on their preparation and presentation. “There’s a sense of pride that you bring to the table when you come from The Citadel that makes you much more comfortable in public speaking and the way you carry yourself, and that automatically makes you more approachable,” McBain said.

Placing camaraderie before competition is another way cadets symbolize honor, duty and respect around the globe.

Double Overtime

Tereis Drayton, ’23, hustles on two levels. For the 2023 football team, he is the honor representative and right tackle on the offensive line. For his studies, he is a double major in accounting and business management.

Drayton, accustomed to being coached on the field, wanted a coach for his field of study. He scored when the Baker School of Business Coaching Program partnered him with Peter Wild, a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company, the world’s largest strategy consulting firm by revenue. Wild, a recent Great Britain transplant, discovered the Baker School coaching program while in search of ways to be helpful to his new community.

“If you start at the top, you’ll always have that organization’s name on your resume.”

“He has encouraged me to go out of my way to apply to top companies,” Drayton said. “If
you start at the top, you’ll always have that organization’s name on your resume.” This advice was the motivation Drayton needed to apply for an internship with Deloitte, one of the world’s leading accounting firms. After several rounds of interviews, Drayton secured an internship for the summer following his 2023 graduation.

Wild has invited Drayton to conference calls, Zoom meetings and lunch on several occasions. “We’ve been learning from each other,” Drayton said. “I’ve been explaining Citadel daily life to him, and he’s been giving me business advice for conducting myself and following up.”

Already a fan of soccer and rugby, Wild now has a new favorite sport—football. “My mentor’s first time ever at an American football game was at The Citadel last year. He just loved it,” Drayton said. “It is so different from what he is used to. He’s excited about season tickets for this upcoming year.”

Drayton and Wild bring different life experiences to the conference table, and they now share a love of The Citadel and Bulldog football that will help them tackle the future as a team.

Brilliant Findings

“We built our own robot,” said physics major Alex Stensland, ’22. “It’s less sophisticated than the technical robots the nanotechnology industry uses.” Stensland’s research on electrochromism increases nanometer-scale film production accessibility, and his work garnered him second-place in the South Carolina Academy of Sciences Undergraduate Platform Award in the oral chemistry division.

Stensland worked alongside physics professors to make film production more reproducible. Nanometer-scale film functions as tint for products like sunglasses and rearview mirrors. “Traditional electrochromic office windows, for example, only change to one color,” Stensland said. “Ours, because it has the capability to change to multiple different colors, opens up a lot more applications for these electrochromic devices.”

Films are constructed layer by layer. Stensland’s method incorporates laser light, allowing him to manipulate irradiation time, intensity and location as well as the number and thickness of layers. Adjusting these variables means he can pattern the student-grade film.

“In the industry,” Stensland said, “film can cost millions of dollars to produce. Our cost is around $300 to $400.” Stensland’s process prioritizes affordability over precision, so cadets can experiment with low-cost materials while gaining valuable experience.

As a cadet, Stensland enjoyed The Citadel’s small class sizes that allowed him to explore his interests. “We work one-on-one with the professors all day,” he said, “and our physics department is big enough to have resources for us to pursue our research projects and academic interests.”

“Film can cost millions of dollars to produce. Our cost is around $300 to $400.”

Although Stensland just graduated, the next cadets in the Long Gray Line can build upon his work. “My end goal is to have one of the juniors carry on this project because there are many different applications and ways you can refine and build a final process,” he said. Stensland’s findings are part of his Citadel Undergraduate Research Experience and were published in May.

Leveling Up Cybersecurity

For cyber operations majors, training to protect networks and software systems is often learned in a computer lab. Or, as The Citadel’s cyber team well knows, during competitions. Cyber operations and computer science double major Jared Johnson, ’22, was one of six cadets who represented The Citadel at the 2022 Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition.

Johnson remembers how it felt to compete alongside his teammates. “It was interesting to see this
surge of energy across the table,” Johnson said. “Maybe we’ll take another look at that mail server. Maybe I’ll go look for a way to break back into this box.” As part of the competition, the cadets had to keep their network functional and available for use while remedying unexpected issues.

With previous experience competing for The Citadel, Johnson and his team confidently manned the network, made updates and disabled unnecessary features. As the timer began to run low, the scores were close, so the judges decided to award one of the 10 collegiate teams a token that would offer a strategic advantage.

To win the token, Johnson’s team had to be creative. One of his teammates captured the spotlight by serenading the judges with “Fly Me to the Moon.” “It was a good boost in terms of spirit and morale,” Johnson said.

“It was interesting to see this surge of energy across the table.”

This was Johnson’s last cyber competition before he graduated. “It was an awesome opportunity,” he said, “and the faculty that we have really go above and beyond by showing us what stars to aim for and giving us the resources for success.” After participating in competitions like this, Johnson now has the hands-on knowledge and application to reach those stars… and fly to the moon.