As a first-generation student and active Air Force member, Tanner Olson overcame a unique set of challenges while earning his Individualized Studies bachelor’s degree.

During his time at Winona State University, Olson discovered the strength of a strong support system, which he quickly found within his first year.

“WSU has helped me obtain a bachelor’s degree and become the first person in my family to do so,” he said.

Olson soon discovered that his professors and new-found friends were his biggest allies. He felt comfortable reaching out for assistance and advice whenever he needed it.

“WSU ha[s] taught me that you can’t do things on your own,” he explained. “You need classmates, professors, and friends to help and guide you along your college career. WSU has tons of support available, and if you reach out, you will be rewarded greatly!”

In his sophomore year, Olson enlisted in the Air Force Reserves alongside his younger brother, becoming a military member while still pursuing his degree.

One of Olson’s first hurdles as a student and active Air Force member was when his first deployment occurred before the semester finished. Using pure determination and assistance from his professors, Olson completed his courses early and was able to solely focus on his service in Djibouti, Africa.

When on campus, Olson never felt alone in his experience of being a student while in the military.

“They have a [military] club at WSU, a study room for us, many events, and an office you can go to for any questions or concerns you may have,” he explained.

For Olson, the support in reaching his goals while in the military keeps coming.

Despite officially graduating in the Spring, Olson will walk during the Fall Commencement, since he will be deployed during the Spring Commencement.

For his next step, due to his interest in electronics, Olson plans to move to La Crosse, Wis. to work as an electrician at a commercial HVAC company. He aspires to become a biomedical technician at Mayo Clinic in the future.

Between his experience at Winona State and in the Air Force Reserves, Olson feels prepared to push forward his career after graduation.

“Without my military education paired with my degree, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today,” said Olson.

I am very thankful for WSU and what it has done for me and the lifelong friends it allowed me to make along the way. Not everyone gets to graduate, let alone attend a 4-year college, so I am very proud of my achievement.
Tanner Olson

Winona State University