University Community Celebrates Women in the Military
As part of the University’s celebration of Women’s History Month, members of the University’s military community and their partners came together to share their experiences and wisdom, and to reflect on how they have grown as leaders.
April 27, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
When Ashlynn Zapolski ’21 was growing up, she looked up to her mother, who served in the U.S. Navy. Inspired by her mother’s service, she is now a cadet in the Connecticut National Guard.
“My mother faced an uphill battle, and she made a space for women at the table,” said Zapolski, a national security major. “She made sure she was a part of something that enabled her to leave a legacy behind. Her motto when we were kids was that she served so we didn’t have to, but she instilled service in us, so we all wanted to serve anyway. It was something that resonated with me and built me as a leader.”
Zapolski, whose father also served in the military, shared her story with the University community in March as part of a “Women in the Military” event, held virtually in honor of Women’s History Month. Moderated by Danielle Desjardins '17 M.A., coordinator for transfer and veteran success and the University veterans representative, the event brought together members of the University community who are military service members, as well as spouses of servicemembers.
“This event was important to us and the veterans services community because it helps to gather our community together while acknowledging and celebrating the women of the military,” said Zapolski. “This is very important.”
‘Everyone can contribute’
Patricia Schlosser ’22, who served as a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, has fond memories of her service. A diesel mechanic for three years, Schlosser had to end her service after she was injured. She says she chose the Marine Corps because she had heard it was the most challenging branch of the military.
“I did everything the guys did, which was nice,” said Schlosser, a business management major. “I don’t think I was treated differently when I got into my unit. I really loved it. You meet so many people, and they come from all walks of life. It’s a great way to connect with others and to be part of something better.”
Jan Jones, Ph.D., coordinator for hospitality and tourism management at the University, shared her perspective as the spouse of a former member of the National Guard. A Nova Scotia native, Dr. Jones grew up near Canadian Forces Base Greenwood, and she later moved to the United States with her husband and young child with no other family nearby. She discussed how her experiences impacted her and how they enabled her to develop as a leader.
“I gravitate toward people who push me,” she said. “I tell my students to find things they’re good at. I love the panelists’ message that everyone can contribute. That’s the kind of leader I am.”
‘Nothing should be able to stop you’
The panelists discussed why they joined the military, what shaped them as leaders, and how other women have supported and mentored them. Sharing their own impactful and challenging experiences, they reflected on how they helped inspire and pave the way for others.
Beneda Litchmore ’19, ’21 MHA, who was the first member of her family to go to college, was a trailblazer for her family members in many ways. She shared her experiences serving in the U.S. Navy, which, she says, has been an important part of her life.
“I was the first person in my family to join the military,” she said. “Because I served, some of my siblings and extended family started to do the same. My legacy is not being afraid to be the first. I’m hoping that the people I have counseled or shared my wisdom with pass that down to those coming after them.”
Zapolski, the national guard cadet, plans to commission after she graduates in May, and she is looking forward to balancing her service with attending law school. She hopes to inspire future servicemembers throughout her career.
“I hope the legacy I leave behind will reflect my leadership, empathy, compassion, and not taking ‘no’ for an answer,” she said. “Nothing should be able to stop you, regardless of your gender. I want to foster drive and ambition in those who follow in my footsteps.”