The Story of Us: Andrew Orbeck
TAMPA, JAN. 15, 2015 – He blends in like many other individuals on campus at the University of South Florida, but like most veterans, Andrew Orbeck has experienced life in a unique way. Scarcely three years before college, Orbeck was part of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team on his second deployment to Afghanistan – a job that is categorized as one of the most dangerous in the military.
Hailing from Chicago without much direction, Orbeck decided to join the United States Marine Corps to challenge himself and take advantage of benefits. "I felt like I could have gone to college but I had no idea what I would study," he said. "It wasn't anything patriotic, but once I got in I realized it was so much more important than I ever thought."
He first spent time as an Ammo Technician but made a lateral move to the world of Explosive Ordnance Disposal. He would attend one of the most demanding and rigorous schools the Marine Corps has to offer.
"Doing something out of the norm was important to me and that's not a job a lot of people do," Orbeck said. "It's a tough school; it's tough to get selected and stay, and it was a personal challenge."
Orbeck left the Marines in 2012 with two deployments to Afghanistan under his belt, a Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Korean Defense Medal, and a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.
The Path to Becoming a Bull
After working as a security contractor for Citigroup, Orbeck decided to follow his passion and pursue work in engineering while also continuing his education. The opportunity arose for him to spend time as a processing engineer intern with the company Mosaic. He chose the University of South Florida to move closer to his parents, who already lived here, and because of the large engineering department at the school.
A junior chemical engineer major and Historian of the Society of American Military Engineers, Orbeck boasts an impressive 3.9 GPA. He attributes his good study habits to maturity and discipline.
On top of his stellar academic résumé is the work he does with veterans as a benefits counselor with USF's Office of Veterans Services. The transition from soldier to student can often be a big change and counselors like Orbeck smooth the transition. "Working at the office has been great," he said. "Working here and meeting people who I can help because I've been through the same things has been awesome."
The Real Reward
Among his studies and work, Orbeck still finds the time to help fellow veterans through the Vet-to-Vet Tutoring Program. "I got involved with that program last summer," he said. "It's a good system that really focuses on the one-on-one aspect of tutoring."
The program matches veteran tutors with fellow veteran students who need help with anything from Organic Chemistry to American Government. The tutor never changes during the semester, making it much more personal than other tutoring programs.
"It's not what people think about when they think about tutoring," Orbeck said. "It's a lot more involved – you're meeting with that person twice a week for the whole semester so you really get to know how the student approaches problems, and you can really figure out how they learn best."
Orbeck has found investing in fellow veterans' educations to be the most rewarding thing about his time here on campus.
Planning to graduate in the spring 2016 semester, Orbeck still hasn't decided on whether or not he will pursue a master's degree through the accelerated program offered here at the University of South Florida.
He may instead opt for a more hands on approach. "Eventually, I'd like to get into research, but I go back to my time in the Marine Corps and remember the importance of practical experience," Orbeck said. "Actually getting your hands on the work is so important in any type of processing or manufacturing career."
Regardless of the path he chooses, Orbeck has the qualities that lead to success. These same qualities he shares with his fellow brothers and sisters who walk this campus as veterans. Each story is different, but one thing consistently remains the same – veterans remain an integral part of not only the success of this campus, but the community as a whole.
Thanks to the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, veterans everywhere are finding success in the classroom and beyond. At the University of South Florida, we would like to share with you the successes of our veterans and the impact they are making here at school and also in their communities. This series will highlight exceptional individuals who not only served our country in a time of need, but are using their unique tools to succeed after military service.
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