Veteran reflects on his path to a college degree from BHSU-Rapid City

Author: Gustave Karinen/Thursday, November 10, 2016/Categories: 2016

Mike Dover's basic training photo from 1991. Dover, a retired veteran of the U.S. Airforce, received his human services degree from Black Hills State University-Rapid City in 2015.

Retired U.S. Airforce Veteran Mike Dover earned his human services degree from BHSU-Rapid City in 2015. He now works at Box Elder Job Corps. Left to right, son Aj, wife Aubrey with son Kiernan, Mike, and son David.

Upon entering the Black Hills State University-Rapid City building, a large sign reads "To current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, thank you for your service. It's now our honor to serve you." That's a sentiment Mike Dover says he's witnessed firsthand.

Retired veteran Mike Dover was living in Rapid City in 2012 when he saw a sign for the University Center (now BHSU-Rapid City). His wife was pregnant with their third child and Mike wanted to find a new job to support his growing family. He hoped BHSU-RC would be a step in the right direction.

Walking through the doors at BHSU-RC, Mike was first introduced to the Veterans Upward Bound program, a program he says was very instrumental to his success in college. Mike began working with Rick Rhode, assistant program director, and Cathy Payne, program advisor, as he prepared to enroll in college courses.

Mike hadn't sat in a classroom for more than 20 years when he decided to return to school at BHSU-RC.

"After a stellar career in the U.S. Air Force in Human Resources Management, Mike joined Veterans Upward Bound where he received services in preparation for entering post-secondary education including preparatory classes in math and writing," said Rick.  

Upon completing Upward Bound and being admitted to BHSU-RC, Mike selected Human Services as his major.

Dr. Lesleigh Owen, sociology instructor at BHSU-RC, first met Mike when he enrolled in her Social Policy course. She calls him a funny, smart student with "rough humor and piercing social observations" who wasn't afraid to share his ideas and opinions.

"In class, Mike spoke passionately about helping other veterans, other persons who felt displaced and unsure how to move forward in their futures. He cares so much about veterans, people with disabilities, and others who have been disenfranchised in some way," said Lesleigh.

Lesleigh said she'd smile when she saw Mike Dover's name on her class roster.

"No one was a stranger to Mike and no class would be boring with him in it," said Lesleigh. "Even when they disagreed with him, my other students still loved him."

Mike was active and instrumental in the success of the BHSU-Rapid City Veterans Club. According to Rick, Mike served as an officer in the club and obtained a work-study position. In those roles Mike provided educational support to his fellow veteran students and helped the program director recruit and administer the program.

"I was old enough to be my students' parents. I was unsure how I was going to fit in," said Mike. "But being in Veterans Upward Bound, I connected with people my age with similar experiences. It created a level of comfort level for me."

Mike graduated from BHSU-RC in 2015. On graduation day, the stands were full of Mike's supporters. His wife and children were cheering him on, along with Mike's favorite professor.

"When it came time for him to graduate, I stood up and hollered when Mike's name was called," said Lesleigh. "It's pretty impossible not to respect, admire, and yes, really like Mike."

Mike is putting his human services degree to good use as an advisor to the students at the Box Elder Job Corps, a career technical training program. Using the skills he learned in the Airforce and the education he earned at BHSU-RC, Mike is positively impacting students.

"One of the best benefits of Upward Bound at BHSU-RC is that it creates a community of veterans. That's one of the biggest things veterans miss when they are released from active duty, that comradery and mutual support," said Mike. "You feel like you belong again."

For more information on BHSU-RC or the Veterans Upward Bound Program, call 605-718-4194 or visit www.BHSU.edu/RapidCity.
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