Spotlight on: Andrew Exposito

Photo: Mike Peters

Andrew Exposito

Andrew Exposito ’07 is a veteran, an alumnus, a student, and a Marine Staff Sergeant. Being all those things carries a great weight and has come with a price, but Exposito is a fighter. After transferring from Boston University and finishing his first semester at Montclair State, Exposito joined the U.S. Marine Corps in May 2002. On the first day of the spring 2003 semester, Exposito was called to active duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Iraqi Freedom. He has repeatedly had his studies interrupted to serve—sometimes voluntarily—for three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. After finally earning a BS in 2007, he immediately enrolled in the MBA program. But with just one year of graduate studies under his belt, he was off again. Having just returned to the U.S., Exposito is anxious to resume his academic career. He took some time to share his experiences of leading a double life.

How hard is it to have to start and stop your studies?
It’s hard not to think about it when you have to leave and when you’re away for so long. When you’re going to school, it can sometimes get tedious but then when you have a change of environment, you miss it. Then when you come back, you’re kind of anxious to start over again but you just have to hit the ground running.

It must be difficult to stay connected.
I am able to connect each time I come back. You build these friendships throughout the course of the semester. Even though I may be a different age or on a different level based on my experience, I still feel like we are on the same page. But being in and out of the school environment so many times, I do feel a sense of having to play catch up.

How much were you able to communicate to people back home?
I would’ve liked to be able to remotely take classes but it just wasn’t possible. In Iraq, there is wireless cable in the living spaces, and on the smaller bases, there are computer centers that have Wi-Fi. You do have to be careful what you say, though, for operational security. You always have to take that into consideration and you have to be really vague.

How do you stay motivated to pursue your degree?
A big part of that is family. I’ve always been taught if you start something, you need to see it through. My brother has a master’s degree so there is a bit of a competition with him. Honestly, there have been times I’ve thought about just giving up, but I knew I would hate to look back and regret it and say ‘I wish I had finished school.’

How does being in the military help you at school and vice versa?
All the variety of courses and assignments from school help you learn a little about a lot of different things which gives you the advantage of having an arsenal of information to approach problem solving. The military experience gives you the structure and the discipline. It changes your work ethic. You feel bad if you’re late!

Are you in contact with the veterans’ services department of financial aid?
Kenneth Key, the veterans’ certifying officer, and everyone who works in that area are very helpful. I stop in there periodically, not just for myself but I have a lot of Marines under me who go to school here too, so I like to keep myself informed for them.

Is the food better here or in the military?
Oh, the food is better here! There’s only so much pot roast you can eat!

What is your fondest Montclair State memory?
That would probably be my graduation ceremony at the Izod Center, mostly because I looked over at my parents and they were very emotional and they’re not usually like that.

What is your goal for the future?
I am working on finishing my MBA. I have 18 credits left. My ultimate goal is to work in federal law enforcement or for the FBI as a field agent. It’s a different work day every day so it keeps things fresh and interesting.

What advice would you give to someone who has to take a leave of absence from school?
You have to just stay with it. You have to keep moving forward. Everyone’s situation is different but the key is to prioritize and get the help you can. The sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when you are done is amazing.