Marine Corps veteran makes the switch from avionics to academics

After a life-changing NICU experience, new mom and aviation tech Tiara Young ’23 set her sights on a career in neonatology. Now she has found her new path—and a supportive veteran network—at Brown.

She may only be in her first semester at Brown, but biology concentrator Tiara Young knows she’s in the right place. Her service in the Marine Corps took her from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota to postings around the country as an avionics calibration technician. Here, Young discusses her path to College Hill, the challenge of returning to full-time coursework after a six-year gap, and what compelled her to pursue a career in medicine.

Describe your role in the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps asked me to look at a list of possible job categories and choose something. I chose avionics and from there on, my job role was based on how well I performed. I knew I wanted the best job, so I just kept working to score in the top of my class. Eventually I was able to pick calibration, which was what everyone wanted. I also knew it was a role that would transition out to the real world well. I served for five years as an avionics calibration technician, where I calibrated anything that had a measurement that went onto an aircraft. I also became the administrative point of contact for all incoming and outgoing items for all the squadrons. 

When did you know you wanted to apply to colleges?

When I was in the Marine Corps, I loved learning how to do something new. I was in school for two years to get my job in avionics. Once I was actually in the job, I decided that if I'm going to do the same thing every day and work long hours, then I want to be a doctor. I love science and I want to help people and actually be out practicing medicine. At Brown I’ve joined the New Scientist Collective and Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE). I'm loving my classes and really excited to be further on in my education so that I can do more research.

Why did you choose to go into medicine?

I have a three-year-old daughter who was born prematurely. I was in the NICU with her for 19 days, and they were the hardest, gloomiest days of my life. It felt like the world had stopped. But in that time, I noticed the doctors working, saw their relationships, and heard them talking about their stories and experiences. That made a big impact on me, and I started thinking about how I’d like to do that for other people. I did a lot of research afterward and that’s when I knew for sure that I wanted to go back to school so I can be a neonatologist. It motivated me to study for the SAT and find out about the Leadership Scholar Program. My focus right now is on doing really well and learning as much as I can, especially because I have a six-year gap since I was last in school. But I know I’d like to go on to medical school. It’s challenging, but I’m focused on it.

“ I’ll be forever grateful because being in the Marine Corps helped me draw a roadmap for my life. And it’s what led me to be here at Brown. ”

Tiara Young ’23

Why Brown? 

About a year ago, I never thought Brown would be an option for me. When I was at Camp Pendleton, I met some veterans who were here at Brown. Talking to them made me want to come here, too. I ended up becoming a candidate for the Leadership Scholar Program in the Marine Corps. They helped with everything having to do with the application process and made it possible.

What was it like to return to college after being away from school for six years in the Marine Corps? 

Your mind has to wrap itself around it again. Especially having my daughter at home and figuring out my outside life in addition to coming back to school. It was hard, and I think the first month was probably the most challenging thing I’ve done in my life. I’ve been dedicating many hours to making sure I’m on top of my classes. I’m happy doing it, so I know I’m on the right track and would do it all over again.

Has the Brown community been supportive? 

Definitely, especially my professors. At first, I didn’t know how to talk with them about my situation with having a daughter at home and being away from school for years. After I did, though, they’ve all been so supportive. My chemistry professor even offered to watch my daughter for me if I need to take an exam and she’s sick or couldn’t go to daycare. I’m also not able to go to many of the extra study sessions or to the resource center in the evening, but I have a tutor from the medical school who’s really helped me as I’m studying for midterms. It’s awesome—everyone’s been super supportive.

How do you stay connected to the veteran community at Brown?

I work in the Office of Military-Affiliated Students (OMAS), so I’m there every afternoon. The space is used by veterans all day because most of us commute to school and it’s a convenient place to study or stop in between classes. The thing I miss most about being in the Marine Corps is the community, but I feel like the veteran community here has really made up for that. There’s a humor and a way of understanding each other that we all share, and it’s been so nice to have that here.


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