When she was growing up in Los Angeles, Susan Chambers never thought she would ever meet anyone from Tennessee. Now, after four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, she is married to a native Tennessean and enrolled as a sophomore at East Tennessee State University.
“It was a really big culture shock,” she laughs.
Chambers had always been interested in the field of criminal justice and studied it for one year at California State University, Los Angeles, before joining the Marines. During her time in the service, she was stationed at Camp Pendleton in California as a radio operator and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012.
One of the things she enjoyed most about the Marine Corps was the opportunity to meet people from all over. “There are people from walks of life that you never imagined you’d meet,” she said. “It doesn’t matter – race, ethnicity, where they’re from. All walks of life. You make lifelong friends. There’s that similarity, that basic understanding that you share with each other. When times get tough, you know there’s always somebody there who knows exactly what you’re going through. That’s a good thing to know when you’re serving your country.”
It was in the Marine Corps that Chambers met her husband, who is from the small community of Robbins in Scott County, Tenn. They both got out of the Corps at the same time and came to Tennessee, and when she decided to go back to school and continue her studies in criminal justice, she was attracted to ETSU by its strong program in the field.
However, after realizing that forensics appealed to her more than law or law enforcement, Chambers recently changed her major to biology with a minor in anthropology. “I like the science of it, and want to work in a lab,” she said. “It was a hard choice, because I was really intent on studying criminal justice and am still interested in it. But, you have to sacrifice certain things if you want to get what you want.”
Outside class, Chambers works in ETSU’s Veterans Affairs office through the work study program. “I love Veterans Affairs,” she said. “It’s a really great program for veterans, and helps them out a lot. It’s important to have someone who understands what it’s like to come out of the military after you’ve been in for a certain amount of time. The people in Veterans Affairs are usually veterans themselves, so they really understand and do a lot of things to accommodate veterans and help them out.”
Chambers also appreciates the size of the university and her classes. “It’s not too big, and doesn’t overwhelm you – it doesn’t make you feel like you’re lost,” she explained. “It has a better teacher/student ratio, as well. It’s more personal.”