Tyler Poland has seen the world, but he never saw himself as a college student.
Until he came to Stark State, that is. Taking advantage of his military benefits, the Navy veteran is now a sociology major who’s found a love for learning. “I was never the guy you’d think would be really into college,” he said. “I hated classroom stuff in high school, but college is totally different. This is real-world stuff you can have a conversation about.”
After graduating from Perry High in 2005, Tyler worked in a factory before setting sail with the Navy in 2007. During his six years of service as a military postal clerk and logistics specialist he visited 10 countries. An injury overseas hospitalized him for two years, but once back in Stark County, he decided Stark State was the place to begin a new chapter. “It’s close to home and could give me a feel for what’s out there,” he said.
Once he took his first sociology class, though, he got his bearings. “Sociology is an area that probably has a lot to do with my military service,” he said. “Having experienced different cultures and ways of life, you get a feel for the world beyond what you’re exposed to here. You find other places have different ways of thinking – it’s mind-expanding. Our way is not always the ‘right way.’”
Priorities are different in other places, he pointed out. In Greece, for instance, “people take time off in the middle of the day to go home, they sleep more, they have more time for family life, more holidays and time off. Everything doesn’t revolve around material things.” No wonder then, Tyler is now studying cultural diversity and social psychology.
Nontraditional students, including veterans, shouldn’t be wary of a return to the classroom, he said: “From the outside looking in, it can be intimidating, but it wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated. It’s easy to get started and you can get credits for military service. Plus the instructors have a passion for what they do and that rubs off on you.
“You’ll find some really great things here. Test the waters. It can’t hurt to see if it’s for you. You’re never going to know until you do it.”
Tyler plans to turn his associate degree into a bachelor’s degree, then see where life takes him next.
“Stark State,” he said, “is a stepping stone to wherever you want to go.”