From the Air Force to the workforce

Jenna Hess ’23 will graduate this spring after internships with Military & Veterans Center, food management company

By Kyle Hobstetter on April 3, 2023

Jenna Hess in the Military and Veterans Center
Towson University senior, and Air Force veteran, Jenna Hess has found her place at TU through the Military and Veterans Center and within the College of Business and Economics. (Alex Wright / Towson University)

When she started at Towson University, Jenna Hess never expected to find a second family.

That’s the word the United States Air Force veteran uses when describing those in the Military & Veterans Center (MVC).

Before starting college, Hess was worried it was going to be stressful. As a first-generation college student, she didn’t know what to expect.

Finding the MVC helped her handle the transition from the Air Force to Towson University. It connected her with fellow student-veterans and gave her a space on campus to relax and study.

“As a student-veteran, I do feel taken care of by Towson University,” Hess says. “I not only have the support system of the MVC staff but also the support of my fellow veterans. They always answer my goofy questions and all the random things I ask. It’s cheesy, but the MVC is like a little family.”

One of the biggest reasons Hess has gravitated there is the group’s support staff, including MVC Director Dario DiBattista and Veteran Support Specialist and Lead School Certifying Official Toby Frevert.

It was watching these two that led Hess to work for the MVC. She is the lead peer support specialist, usually the first point of contact between the office and TU’s student-veterans.

Since coming to TU in 2020, Hess says she’s continued to step out of her comfort zone. DiBattista, who met Hess when she first walked on campus, says it’s been an honor to watch her grow these past three years.

"Beyond my respect for her as a fellow veteran, Jenna is the absolute embodiment of the best of what TU provides as a holistic experience,” DiBattista says. “The transformation I've seen in Jenna since her first day on campus, newly out of the service, has been massive. To see her grow from an unsure and reticent new student to a lead peer support specialist for our office to becoming president of the Tiger Veterans Group—all while building our community and having real-life impacts on dozens of her peers—is impressive. It's been an honor to serve our community alongside Jenna and benefit from her dedication and growth.”

Jenna Hess working with veterans in the MVC
Hess has been an integral part of the Military and Veterans Center, where she works as the lead peer support specialist. (Alex Wright / Towson University)

Along with finding her place in the MVC, Hess has found her way in the classroom, majoring in business with a concentration in project management and business analysis.

Project management, supply chain and strategic management were always interesting to Hess, even back in her Air Force days as a storeroom operations and safety representative. She worked with the kitchen staff preparing the food and learning about the business side of food preparation.  

Hess is interested in continuing to work in the restaurant business. With her experience at TU, she knows she will be ready to jump into the workforce after graduating this spring.

“I’ve learned all these valuable things about businesses and business concepts you can apply to any industry, and I’ve heard from so many different types of people,” Hess says. “It was priceless. When I graduate, it's not going to feel like I'm doing this without a net underneath me.”

She’s already getting real-world experience in her final term, working with the food and facilities management company Sodexo as a future leader intern.

When she was looking for an internship her senior year, Sodexo was her No. 1 pick. In fact, while serving in New Mexico during her Air Force career, Hess actually worked with executive chefs and general managers from the company. 

Her internship has reinforced her passion for working with food, whether through supply chain, project management or human resources.

“I feel like [Sodexo] is all encompassing, and at the end of the day, it's all about food. Food is cool and fun, and it brings people together,” Hess says. “And with my degree, I’ll be able to get into the business aspect of food and work with something I’m passionate about.”