U.S. Air Force Veteran Katie Butler seeks a career that will suit her tenacity and vitality.
Katie Butler
Katie Butler strikes an especially fierce pose at Farm Science Review.

Story and photos by Matt Marx

Senior Katie Butler visited a career fair recently with a bruise around her left eye, earned during a boxing class the previous weekend.

“Couldn’t stop the right hook,” said Butler, a U.S. Air Force veteran enrolled at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

So, to meet with prospective employers, she wore her purple shirt to match her eye.

As spring 2020 commencement draws near and Butler completes her BS in construction systems management, she hopes to match herself in a career befitting her personality.

“I want to go home every day dirty, sunburnt, and exhausted—forever!” Butler said.

She said something similar a few years ago when she interviewed with Matthew Sullivan for her current student job, working grounds maintenance at Farm Science Review at Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio.

“I told her. This could be the perfect place for you to work,” said Sullivan, Farm Science Review superintendent. “When I learned Katie was in the military, it was a pretty easy hire. You can pick out students’ personality. I could tell hers was fun-loving, genuine, and there was care there as well, and you could pick that out pretty quickly.”

Butler enjoys working year-round at FSR, where she’s mostly outdoors taking care of the grounds and buildings, she said. “I will miss everyone.”

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”Katie Butler

Butler is a “genuine individual” who “brings a unique and entertaining approach to life,” her current supervisor, Garrett Nowak, said.

“She does not shy away from hard work and is quick to pitch in where help is needed,” said Nowak, site manager for FSR. “Her background makes her a versatile member of our team, as she is comfortable in both leadership and supporting roles.”

Butler, of Gahanna, Ohio, served three years in knowledge support, stationed with the 56th Operations Group at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

“I met a lot of people from different places,” Butler said. “That was the coolest part for me. I got to work with all the pilots. They were the most fun people I ever worked with my entire life.”

Butler injured her hip during training, so she is now a disabled veteran, she said.

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude,” Butler said.

Having undergone several hip surgeries while taking some challenging CFAES courses at Ohio State, Butler has learned tenacity, perseverance, and problem-solving skills, she said.

“Ohio State has prepared me tremendously. They did a really good job preparing all aspects of the construction program. They did wood and steel, dirt, everything,” she said.

Butler appreciates the help she has received along the way. She is a recipient of the CFAES Nourishing Success Scholarship Fund (#315732), which helps cover meal costs for income-eligible students who live off campus, and The William H. Yarber Sr. and Glenna R. Yarber Scholarship Fund (#647764).

“If they were here, I would say thank you. Words kind of escaped me when they told me,” she said. “It helps me focus on the learning part of school and not on the being broke part.” 

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided most of any other financial assistance she needed through the GI Bill, Butler said. “They take care of books, tuition, health insurance, parking, everything.”

Butler is among 126 military-connected undergraduate and graduate students who are enrolled at CFAES this semester, the university’s Office of Military and Veterans Services reports. “Military-connected” includes veterans, active duty, reserves, national guard, and dependents, of which there are 27 in the college. The university has 1,790 military-connected students, including 515 dependents. Ohio State has an additional 470 ROTC students.

Ohio State’s Office of Military and Veterans Services has connections to nearly all offices, colleges, and departments across all campuses, senior undergraduate academic advisor Amanda Patterson said. Incoming students are assigned peer sponsors who help them transition to student life.

A veteran community advocate is embedded in CFAES and in every academic unit to develop programming and support students, Patterson said.

Also available to veterans on campus is the VetSuccess On Campus counselor, a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employee embedded at Ohio State to help students bridge the gap between the university and the VA, assist with vocational direction, and help with veteran transition services, she said.

For her part, Butler said any issue she ever had was sorted out quickly by Ohio State’s office.

“All that stuff that can be frustrating has been taken care of. … Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she said. “So many people are there to help you out.”