Meet Carole Thomas: Supporting military personnel and all students

Dr. Carole Thomas, Director of Career and Military Services here at Heidelberg, is dedicated to helping students and service members alike create strategies for entering the workforce. A veteran herself, assisting fellow service members recognize and project their talents and accomplishments became a passion of hers. As we approach Veterans Day, take the time to get to know Carole and what she can do for you and your classmates!

Military background

Carole comes from a military family. Her grandfather served. Her father served. Her three younger brothers all served. In her generation, Carole served for the longest time: eight years in the U.S. Army. She was enlisted, not commissioned, so she “did all the grunt work,” as she worked her way up the military chain.

In her training, Carole was an expert marksman. “What I try to hit, I hit,” she joked. After basic training, for the first three of her eight years, Carole was a combat communications specialist. The next two years, she worked in administration, and for the last three, she worked as a surgical technician. “I loved the military. I would have been a lifer,” Carole explained, “but I had to put my children first.”

Since her time in the military, Carole’s love for the culture and the people there has stayed strong. Most recently, before her time at Heidelberg, she worked as a facilitator for an employment workshop for transitioning service members in Fort Knox, Kentucky. There, she taught in a classroom of 50 people, some as young as 17 and others as old as their 60s, some with eighth- grade-level education, and some with doctorates, showing them what to expect from the civilian workforce. “So much of military life is a culture, and it starts in basic,” Carole shared. “In your training, you learn quickly, you don’t do it the way your families do it, or your school did it – you do it the military way. It’s all very laid out.” Not dissimilar from the panic that undergraduates may feel when they realize they’ve only done school their entire lives, the unknown aspect of the workforce can be a real struggle. “There’s this feeling, even of very young veterans, that they’re three years behind everyone else who didn’t serve.”

“It’s like a culture shock,” Carole shared. “No one’s going to call you Lieutenant Colonel in your civilian job. Even if all of your time in the military has given you perfect, applicable experience for your civilian job, no one is going to call you by rank.” These kinds of lessons can be difficult for anyone. Carole’s role as an educator meant she was a bridge between serving and veteran, and had to prepare them for those new experiences. “I called my students by their first names, and it was hard for them.”

Military at Heidelberg

Carole’s passion for helping veterans enter the workforce didn’t diminish when she came to Heidelberg. Although she was brought on to lead career readiness as part of the HYPE Career Ready® program, it wasn’t long before she made her role her own by filling the needs that she saw around campus. “I asked if there was a military lounge, and there wasn’t. I think that’s very necessary – veterans need their own space to be themselves without judgment. So we started working on that.”

Since beginning her work at Heidelberg, Carole has worked toward a variety of initiatives for veterans and service members. She has been named as a military/veteran point of contact on campus, established priority registration for veterans and service members, and has begun surveying veterans and service members and their families about the challenges they’re facing and the help they need. Thanks to Carole’s work, earlier this year, Heidelberg was designated as a Collegiate Purple Star Campus, a state recognition for schools that are dedicated to increasing resources, support and accessibility for students who are veterans and service members.

Now, Carole is serving as the advisor for a new student organization, the Student Military Support Alliance. Their second meeting is tonight. The group provides a space for students who currently serve, or have served, in the military. They are working to support one another and provide that important judgment-free space.

How she can help you

Military or not, Carole loves “helping students realize their dreams.” Ever encouraging and driven, Carole is quick to prove to students that “she means it,” when they come to her for help. She’s had students sit in her office while she makes calls trying to find them an internship and has provided real guidance as students look for their next steps. 

Just recently, Carole shared, a student had come into the office looking for an internship. There was a well-known employer accepting applications, an opportunity that the student was clearly excited about, but felt too sheepish to apply to such a big name. “You could tell they wanted it, so I printed off the job description, and said, ‘Make a special resume, tailored for this,’ and of course, they may not get it, but it’s about getting them to realize ‘yeah, you can’, you know, why not?” 

Carole is driven to provide resources and direction for folks, “I’ve been doing it so long – and I love it!” 

So be sure to stop in and say "hi." Whether it’s to wish her a happy Veterans Day this month, or to ask how to get your first internship, Carole is ready and excited to help everyone enter the workforce confidently.


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