Graduation 2018: Marine Corps veteran earns college degree with the help of Lipscomb's veteran services

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In honor of the December commencement ceremony, follow the Graduation Stories Series to read about some of the experiences of the December 2018 graduates. Family and friends are invited to join in the celebration at commencement on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. in Allen Arena.  

Graduation Series: Dillon Volpi goes from Marine veteran to college veteran

Marine veteran Dillon Volpi will walk across the stage and become a college veteran on Dec. 15, 2018.

Volpi, a biology major, began at Lipscomb in January of 2017 after serving for five years in the Marine Corps as Military Police.

“I worked in a lot of military prisons,” said Volpi. “I was in charge of a 35-marine platoon and up to 100 prisoners. If you were to mess up you could have pretty serious consequences. You also have to be aware of your surroundings because these people are not friendly, they don’t like you and they will try to hurt you if they have the opportunity.”

Volpi said his decision to join the Marines was a very spur-of-the-moment one. When he was 19 years old, his friend asked him to join the Marines with him a month before his departure, and he agreed.

Before he left for the Marines, Volpi was a pre-med student at the University of Missouri. When he returned to civilian life, he knew he wanted to pursue a career that allowed him to help people.

“When I came back from the Marines, the first science class I took reignited that flame, and I realized I could help people in a different way,” said Volpi. “I can stick up for and treat people who can’t do that for themselves.”

After he returned, Volpi took classes at Columbia State Community College in Franklin, Tennessee, until he heard from a close friend that Lipscomb was very “veteran friendly.” Once he looked into it, the decision to transfer to Lipscomb became clear.  He said everyone he spoke with at Lipscomb made his transition easy.

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Lipscomb Veteran Services launched in 2009 and serves more than 200 students who have served in the armed forces, are serving in the armed forces or who are dependents of those who served.

Lipscomb has an 89 percent graduation rate among its veteran students, the fifth-highest in the nation. In the past three years, the retention rate for veteran students at Lipscomb has increased 42 percent and is now 85 percent.

“The transition into college is hard no matter where you go, but I think Lipscomb’s veteran services sets you up with the best possible ways to succeed. You have unlimited resources, so much support here and people who genuinely care.”

The Lipscomb’s Veteran Services staff became a safe place and a source of encouragement for Volpi. He said that office really went the extra mile to help incorporate him into the community he needed.

“The people make this place feel like home,” said Volpi. “There are so many resources and people to help you with whatever you need, whether you are struggling with mental health or struggling in a class, the people in the Veteran Services office are there to support you. Lipscomb is ranked No. 12 in the nation for most veteran friendly schools by Military Times, and the support they give has a lot to do with that.”

Volpi also mentioned how helpful the combination of professors and the small classroom environment has been during his time at Lipscomb.

“It’s not uncommon to be invited to your professor’s house for dinner or to Starbucks for a friendly discussion,” said Volpi. “I’ve never had a teacher here who doesn’t go out of their way to help me.”

Chad Staggs, director of veteran services, said Volpi has been a pleasure to work with throughout his time at Lipscomb.

“Dillon came here driven, focused and ready to learn,” said Staggs. “He is an example to other students on campus, both traditional and veterans. He has worked hard, set high expectations for himself and committed to his role as a student.

“Dillon is unique in the fact that he quickly adapted to the college life. He never forgot his military service, but adapted quickly and used his experience to his advantage in the classroom and around campus. He was able to transition quickly and capitalize on his work ethic. I expect great things from Dillon as he has shown if you work hard and have the right attitude, anything is possible.”