Northern Arizona University senior Alfred Serventi’s summer job was serious work. Every year since 2015, he deployed to the Middle East and Pacific regions to work as an airplane mechanic. One year, he participated in show-of-force missions with North Korea.
It’s all part of the job for Serventi, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, member of the Air National Guard and mechanical engineering student at NAU. He graduates on Nov. 22 after missing two semesters because his deployments were extended due to issues going on throughout the world.
“I wanted to be a part of something bigger while earning a way to pay for college without acquiring student loan debt,” he said. “A teacher talked to me about the Air Force and by chance saw me after school as she was heading to meet a recruiter.”
He came to NAU after leaving the Air Force; growing up in Tucson, the outdoor opportunities, snow and forests offered a welcome change from southern Arizona.
Laurie Jordon, the assistant director for the Veteran Success Center, got to know Serventi well when VSC staff helped him coordinate the pause on his enrollment when he deployed.
“The qualities of leadership and resilience he learned while serving translated well to his tenacity to come back after deployments and continue through the rigorous mechanical engineering program,” Jordon said. “He was also instrumental in supporting his ROTC peers who had not yet served in the military to become better leaders within the program.”
Juggling his military service with his education hasn’t been easy; Serventi said the hardest part has been maintaining his studies with his work schedule. He loaded his class schedule to get as many credits as possible, which was challenging. But, he said, it’ll be well worth it when he graduates, particularly given the hands-on work that he’s been able to do in and out of the classroom.
David Willy, a senior lecturer in mechanical engineering, met Serventi years ago, in a 100-level mechanical engineering class. For his class project, Serventi designed a custom pool table.
“He was a standout even back then as being mature and diligent with his work,” Willy said.
He’s continued to chat with Serventi occasionally about his military service and gave Serventi the ability to keep pressing forward despite stress and challenges. That commitment has helped hone his work ethic and organization as Serventi and his capstone group are the most organized in the class. That capstone project is the construction of a vertical farming/aquaponics combined system.
“I have a great team and have enjoyed physically building a product using skills I’ve learned both at school and in the military,” Serventi said.
He took advantage of the resources offered at NAU’s Veteran Success Center, which offers orientation, leadership programs and support for veterans and members of the military. For Serventi, the VSC offered a community where he could relate to other student veterans and a quiet and comfortable on-campus space where he didn’t feel out of place.
“I knew that Alfred was a veteran but did not know he was still serving until he had to leave for his first deployment for the Air National Guard,” Jordon said. “It was so nice to have Alfred spend time in the Veteran Success Center. He is a kind and approachable person.”
With Veterans Day coming up on Nov. 11, NAU is celebrating with a Veteran Flag Tribute. Join in at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday via YouTube as NAU shows gratitude to those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and shares the diversity of the veteran experience. Anyone with questions can call (928) 523-8387 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 | email@example.com