Veteran mentor pursues MBA, help with GI Bill paperwork

Editor's Note: This story is part of a special Veterans Week series that looks at ASU's student veteran population.

For a list of Veterans Week events and seminars that aim to raise awareness about the unique needs of our servicemen and women, visit

A breadth of life experiences would have seemed to prepare Jason Ohanian for almost anything. But the Army veteran who also has a law degree still needed help figuring out how to use the GI Bill to pay for his MBA studies at Arizona State University. The paperwork was daunting.

“The veteran services on campus helped a lot in figuring out how the process works for education benefits and when to turn in paperwork,” he says. “They are great about looking over your forms to make sure they’re correct. They’re also great in getting us information on any changes in the GI Bills and in sending out information on upcoming events.”

Ohanian stops in at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center most afternoons for a cup of coffee and to say hello to people he knows, introducing himself to people he doesn’t. At 38, he’s a gregarious guy, who is willing to mentor younger vets and invite them to Student Veterans Club activities.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1999, right after graduating from law school at the University of Georgia. Many of the people in his family had served in the Army, and by that time he’d decided he didn’t really want to be a lawyer. When he found out the Army would pay off his student loans, his mind was made up.

He served as an infantry squad leader at Fort Hood, Texas, shipping out after 9/11 to Afghanistan. He had 12 soldiers under his direct command, participating in combat, training others, also servicing and repairing sensitive weapons and equipment. Ohanian says his four years in the Army were the “best and the worst job” he ever had.

After working a number of years in the financial industry, including a lengthy stretch as a research analyst for Wells Fargo in Boston, he realized he needed an MBA to be promoted. He searched for a highly ranked evening program in a big city, enrolling in fall 2010 in the evening MBA program at ASU, which he says was “very welcoming.” He’ll graduate next May.

The Student Veterans Club, established last spring, has been a key resource for Ohanian, who serves as treasurer. He may not continue to suffer from PTSD, as some veterans do, but he understands and shares their need to sit in the back row of a classroom, protected from exposure.

He likes the club activities – tailgating at ASU games, watching football together at a sports bar, marching in this year’s Veterans Day parade. He knows he’s lucky to have made the adjustment to academic life as well as he has.

“Most of the vets are about 25, so I try to reach out when I can. The good thing about the club is that the more vets you have in a room, the more mentoring you have. They might bring up issues that you hadn’t thought of.”

Written by Sarah Auffret