Thomas Blair served his country, but he doesn’t want his service to end there.
Blair, who lives in the Locust Grove area, is pursuing his bachelor’s degree online in social work (BSW) at Georgia State University.
He served in the U.S. Air Force for two and a half years before receiving a medical retirement. Blair was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and received care at a hospital. During his time there, he met therapists and servicemembers like him who needed care. It was from these experiences and meeting others in similar situations that he found his future goal: to become a therapist and social worker for veterans and service members.
“Many of them wanted to stay in, but due to the illness had to get out,” Blair said. “I figured if I became a therapist and worked around a base, I could help people before they got to the point where they had to get out. That’s what drew me to this specific career path – I want to help people before they get to that point.”
Blair knew he wanted a master’s degree and found a way to get the two degrees he needed. Now a student in the bachelor’s program, he will soon enroll in the Advanced Standing Master’s in Social Work Online program, where he can receive an expedited master’s because of his undergraduate endeavors.
“I was looking at schools in the area, and I looked at their programs,” Blair said. “I knew I was going for a master’s, and the program Georgia State has really was attractive because I could save time and save on my G.I. Bill by adding enough classes in and working hard enough to use some of (the G.I. Bill) toward that.”
His course load this semester requires online and in-person classes, and Blair said his experience has been positive as it has allowed him to be able to balance classes, work and life.
“The online program is really nice because I take the classes I need in person, but I also can work around my work schedule so I can work and go to school at the same time efficiently,” Blair said.
Once military-connected students get into GSU, they are surrounded by a variety of programs and opportunities. Like most schools, there is a Veteran Services Department, but Interim Director of Military Outreach Randy Barrone says help doesn’t stop there. Two programs set GSU apart – one being the federally-funded program, Veterans Upward Bound.
“They help veterans who haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree yet with the application process and tutoring, and if they need help with placement testing, they give them supplies,” Barrone said. “It’s a good ‘get ’em in the door, get ’em started’ program.”