Harrison Gichini ’15
Harrison Gichini ’15 has taken a circuitous route to become a student at Washington College—as far east as Kenya, where he’s originally from, beyond to Afghanistan, where he served as a medic with the Marines, and west to Seattle. Now in his first semester, he’s a junior studying biology.
Gichini first studied health sciences in Boston in 2001 after leaving Kenya, and in 2006 he joined the Navy. After working several years at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda alongside ICU nurses, he received orders in 2009 to go to combat medical school with the Marine Corps. From there, it was two tours of duty in Afghanistan as a medic with the Marine Corps.
While in Afghanistan he suffered a back injury when an IED—improvised explosive device—exploded under the vehicle he was riding in. But he survived, and when he returned to the U.S., by 2011 his enlistment time was finished.
“I kind of missed the military life, though, so I became a Navy reservist,” Gichini says. He remains a petty officer first class in the Navy Reserves. After living in Seattle for a brief time, where he enrolled in Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., he and his wife and two young children ended up settling in Church Hill, Md. To continue his undergraduate education he transferred to WC.
“My enrollment was pretty smooth, everything was done online and through email,” he says. Giving special credit to Debbie Bergen, the accounts receivable manager in the Business Office, and Ashley Turlington, assistant registrar, Gichini says the process here was much easier than in other schools where he has studied. “It can be a hard process” working with the Veterans Administration, he says. “It’s a frustrating process, but I think it’s much smoother at this school.”
Likewise, he’s pleased with his biology advisor, department chair and Associate Professor Martin Connaughton. “He’s been very helpful. We were able to organize my class schedule all the way to graduation, so I can plan my life alongside that.”
Gichini says he hopes to use his degree in biology to return to work for the federal government but at a higher level than he has been in the past. “I want to do more, I want to be responsible for other things. The degree gives me more flexibility to choose what I want to do.”