What starts as a bronco, becomes a mustang, and ends as a cougar? You can find the answer in the Murrow Center for Student Success.

Jeremy Watson is an academic advisor and graduate coordinator at the Murrow Center for Student Success. There, he advises students from all walks of life in the best ways to navigate WSU and guide professional careers. He wasn’t always an advisor, however, and how he became one helps explain why he is so good at it.

Bronco: riding a bull from Colorado to the sea and the sky

Jeremy started his life pretty far from being a college advisor. He spent most of his formative years in Colorado, which led him down the road to community college and, believe it or not, pro-bull riding. Neither worked out very well for him.

“I wasn’t ready for college,” he says, shaking his head with a rueful grin, “Like a lot of people, I did it because it was what comes next. I had no motivation or concept of time management. I found myself in Phoenix in a community college and it just wasn’t working out. And so, I answered this very very vague advertisement for firefighters and next thing you know, I was getting a call from a Naval recruiter.”Jeremy standing in front of plane

That took him from Phoenix to the Great Lakes – in January. A stark difference, but he managed and was soon in cryptological technician school in Pensacola. He finished up as an Aircrewman in a Naval signals-intelligence squadron in early September of 2001. Not surprisingly, he was soon taking ground fire in an EP3 Naval reconnaissance plane over Afghanistan during the war. He did well enough that the Navy came up with other plans for him.

“I’d made it to E5 [Petty Officer Second Class] when the Navy had a lapse in judgment and decided they wanted to send me to college and commission me.”

Mustang: from E5 to O3

Jeremy became a mustang – an enlisted person who works their way through the ranks and becomes a commissioned officer. It’s an impressive feat, to attend University, major in Sociology while running through ROTC, but Jeremy was motivated. After finishing his degree, he attended flight school and was posted back to the same squadron he had served in as an enlisted man.

“That gave me some street cred with the other officers, who I had worked with when they were Ensigns and JGs [Lieutenant Junior Grade], but made for some leadership challenges with the guys I’d served with. They were all, ‘Jeremy! What are you doing [in an officer’s uniform]?’ and I had to be all, ‘Come on guys, it’s JG now.”

He led others on the kind of recon missions he had done before, and when it was time to rotate into a new posting, he decided to go where he could make a real difference: training up-and-coming officers back in ROTC.

It wasn’t prestigious, but it was a job he loved. He taught young men and women, helping them through those transformative years as they learned the ropes. It made a strong impression on him that informed his later choices. Afterward, while serving on an Admiral’s Staff in Bahrain, he decided that after nearly 22 years in the service, it was time to muster out.

“I left the service and spent a year traveling across the country in an RV with my wife and kids. It was great being together and having adventures of our own. That brought us to the Palouse, and WSU, where we decided to stay.”

Cougar in the fold: mentoring students through Murrow

The spark Jeremy found while teaching ROTC had smouldered until it had become a full-fledged fire: a passion to continue working with college students. Soon, Jeremy signed up for service of a different sort: as an academic advisor and graduate coordinator for the Murrow College of Communication. That is where you can find him now – in the Murrow Center for Student Success.

“I love it,” he says, a big smile on his face, “a lot of it is helping students to avoid the kind of mistakes I made. Some is teaching them time management, but a good deal is helping them to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them. Sometimes you have to remind people it’s not just numbers and trying to fill requirements. It’s about actually learning something that will help you, not just with your GPA, but with your career, and life.”

To that end, Jeremy may no longer be running reconnaissance in an EP3, but he still serves as an eye-in-the-sky for the students here at Murrow. And we want to thank him for his service, both to our country and our college.