Oliver Barnyak ’09
Oliver Barnyak ’09 started his college career at WC in the fall of 2004 as an economics major, right after finishing up his basic training with the Army National Guard as a reconnaissance specialist. Then, in the fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, and the Guard called Barnyak up to go to New Orleans.
“The night before I left I got a phone call from [Washington College] President Tipson asking, ‘What do you need from us?’ I had already talked with my professors and everything was cool. But that was kind of nice.”
He spent about a month in New Orleans, then returned to WC to continue pursuing his studies until the spring of his junior year, when he learned he was going to be deployed to Iraq in 2007-08—his entire senior year. After nine months overseas, he returned to WC in the fall of 2008 and graduated in spring 2009 with a degree in economics. In spring of 2014, he was accepted to the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
Always, he says, he had solid support from WC faculty and staff to make the transitions as painless as possible. The College’s small community becomes a big benefit for veterans, he says. “You develop a rapport and relationship with your professors and staff, and after a while they know that you don’t come bug them with small stuff and stupid stuff, and sometimes they drop what they’re doing and help you out right away.”
There was no strong cohesion of veterans on the campus while he was in school, Barnyak says, but neither was there pressure to force his military experience to become part of his college experience. “Integrating them was something I wasn’t interested in,” he says, “and it’s nice that you have that choice.”