Bailey Ross did not follow a traditional path to South Dakota State University and its College of Nursing.
A native of Salem, Oregon, Ross entered the U.S. Coast Guard after high school. His service took him to other parts of the United States—New Jersey, Wisconsin, Virginia and then to Washington—but he was not sure where he wanted to go following his four enlisted years. He then entered a community college to become licensed as an emergency medical technician. While working as an EMT, Ross thought nursing might be a better path.
“I got out of the Coast Guard in 2018 because I wanted to go to college,” said Ross, who is majoring in nursing. “I was looking around in the Midwest for nursing programs. I’m a small-town kind of guy and didn’t feel I was going to be able to focus on studies back home. I wanted a rural campus, more of a small town.”
“I knew I wanted nursing and South Dakota State ranked pretty high,” he continued. “It’s a pretty good fit; I really like Brookings.”
Being a nontraditional student has its benefits, Ross said.
“I think you have a different perspective if you come to college later,” he said. “I was able to come in a lot more focused. It’s been different from what I expected, but it’s been good.”
Another good experience came in late August when Ross was one of six military veterans honored with a quilt of valor by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary National President Jean Hamil at the university’s Medal of Honor Park.
He was surprised by the community response.
“It was a way bigger thing than I thought it was going to be,” Ross said. “I definitely appreciate all of the people who turned out. It was nice to be recognized. I’m appreciative of everyone who came out and of the gift from the VFW Auxiliary. It’s a really nice quilt.”
The military still plays an important role in Ross’s life. He signed up to be part of the SDSU Veterans Affairs’ Horses for Heroes program and is a member of the U.S. Air Force Reserves’ 934th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Minneapolis.
“I guess I’m not quite ready to hang it up with the military,” Ross said. “I’m able to get some medical training that should help with school, and I can be commissioned as a flight nurse if I want to do so. It’s good resume material and so far, it’s fit together nicely and going well.”