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Schar School offers Military Family Opportunity to Focus on Service-Oriented Careers

Marjorie Thomas, student working on a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and her husband Henry Thomas, student working on a Master of Social Work (MSW). Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University
Marjorie Thomas, student working on a Master of Public Administration (MPA) and her husband Henry Thomas, student working on a Master of Social Work (MSW). Photo by: Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

By Rob Riordan

Marjorie Thomas’ husband, Henry, was wounded in Afghanistan in 2011. He was awarded a Purple Heart and subsequently received a medical retirement.

The couple’s experiences led each of them to forge a new career path. In 2015, Marjorie enrolled as a part-time student at the Schar School of Policy and Government to pursue a master of public administration degree, with the hope of working in policy or advocacy for veterans’ issues. After a few semesters, she made the difficult decision to give up her job as an administrative professional to focus on the couple’s four young children and her studies.

“I want to be on the fighting side of enacting changes that are for the greater good,” says Marjorie.

Forgoing her income is a challenge for the couple, whose children—Tiara, Jayden, Ava and Olivia—range in age from 14 to 3. It would be out of the question without the support that Marjorie receives from the ERPi Patriot Scholarship,  which provides $2,500 per semester for her studies. The Thomases cover the rest using student loans.

“I really want to make this work and to give it my all. I’ve had to rearrange my life to be sure I’m with the kids,” says Marjorie, who expects to graduate with a MPA in May 2017. “Now I just want to make it to the finish line.”

Henry, who requires ongoing rehabilitation therapy for his injuries, has also found opportunity within adversity. He is completing his undergraduate degree at Mason this year, and plans to enroll in the two-year master’s program in social work offered by the College of Health and Human Services.

“I’ve had some great social workers who helped me with my recovery, and I’d like to do something similar for others,” he says. He is working 20 hours a week for his required practicum at YearUp, a nonprofit group that aims to “close the opportunity divide” among low-income young adults.

Scholarship opportunities and career advancement are among the many services offered by Mason, which was named one of the nation’s top school for military- and veteran-supported education. The need is great: nearly one out of every 10 students at the university—about 3,200 in all—is a veteran, a current military service member, or the dependent of one.

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