Brian Pembleton arrived at SUNY Buffalo State in the fall of 2012 with a wealth of life experiences. As the son of an Air Force technical sergeant, Pembleton grew up traveling the world. His family finally settled in Western New York where he attended Frontier High School.
Although his parents supported his idea of becoming a social studies teacher, they didn’t have the resources to finance a college education. Instead, after he graduated from high school in 2002, Pembleton joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed with the 914th Air Wing in Niagara Falls.
In 2008, he went into the Army where he worked as an intelligence analyst, became airborne-qualified, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010–2011. He left the Army as a sergeant with an honorable discharge in June 2012.
During the past decade, Pembleton also earned two associate’s degrees and worked as a counselor at Cradle Beach Camp. Still, he yearned to complete a bachelor’s degree and embark on a teaching career. He chose Buffalo State where he received tuition assistance through the Veterans Administration.
While he feared it might be difficult transitioning to a four-year college, Pembleton, now 30, said it has been a smooth experience.
"Initially, I was nervous that I wouldn't do well, but I've made the dean's list in back-to-back semesters," said Pembleton who expects to graduate in August.
One motivator was being named a recipient of the Military Service Scholarship, funded in part by the annual Faculty and Staff Appeal. The $1,000 scholarship he received for the 2013–2014 academic year has covered books and living expenses and provided an added incentive to do well.
"I take school more seriously now than when I was younger. I get here early and don't miss any classes," he said. "I definitely appreciate a college education after having worked and seen parts of the world that are beyond Third World, more like stepping back in time."
In addition to majoring in social studies education, Pembleton is minoring in intelligence analysis through the Criminal Justice Department.
"In Afghanistan I did military intelligence, working with commanders and giving a lot of briefings. It was more strategic than tactical work, and I may want to pursue that career as a civilian. I'm looking into teaching positions, too," he said. "Right now, I'm keeping my options open."