By Analyse Jester, Class of 2025
As the University of Oklahoma honors our veterans we give thanks to those who served for our freedom. Gaylord College has the privilege of featuring two veteran students, Nancy Hooper and Amber Alumpe. Both served in the United States Air Force and are now pursuing careers in professional writing.
Nancy Hooper, 44, received a BA in classical studies at OU; upon taking a folklore and mythology class at OU, Hooper decided to continue her education and chase a newly-found passion of writing non-fiction novels.
“People are very scared of stepping out of their comfort zone,” Hooper said. “When you are a little bit off balance, you actually perform at your best because you're more alert and you're more aware.”
Hooper was active duty for eight years, and then spent about six years as a civilian contractor, and another six years doing various contracting jobs for the Air Force. Hooper decided to enlist after high school with the encouragement of a coin toss.
“I was thinking, okay, I will flip a coin and if it is heads I will go to the recruiter and if it’s tails I won't. And it was heads, so I went and saw a recruiter and ended up signing a contract to enlist right then,” Hooper said.
After her time in the military, Hooper realized she had other passions she wanted to pursue. She is grateful for her time in the Air Force as it taught her a lot about life, and was how she met her husband, who is still active duty. However, she is shifting gears and is hoping to one day professionally publish her own novel.
“It is okay to try new things even if they're scary, even if you're worried you might fail,” Hooper said. “You never know what you might be good at and you will always learn something about yourself.”
Amber Alumpe, 39, a fellow veteran, found herself in Gaylord after she medically retired in 2022. Alumpe, influenced by the tragedy of 9/11 and her two older brothers who were also in the military, decided to enlist in the Air Force at the age of 17.
Alumpe worked in many different areas of the Air Force during her career, including Life Support, Augmented Survival Instructor, Weapons School (Top Gun Program), Thunderbirds and the Combat and Rescue Squadron.
“It [Air Force] helped me be really patient and compassionate towards people,” Alumpe said. “Show people grace and compassion, you never know what is going on in someone’s life.”
After her medical retirement, Alumpe left her higher-paying job to pursue an education in PW. Although it was a hard decision, Alumpe is excited to see what her future holds.
“I want to do what I am passionate about, that’s helping people. Telling stories that help people and sharing information,” she said. “I am really happy I picked this major and got to come here [Gaylord], it is a lot of fun.”
Mel Odom, professor of professional writing, has helped both Alumpe and Hooper get adjusted to college life after their time in the military. Alumpe is grateful for his patience and understanding when it comes to accommodations for her learning.
“Asking for help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness, and if you live in fear then you will never know,”Alumpe said.
Even though they are older than your average college students, Hooper and Alumpe are grateful to be learning about their passion for writing. Happy to be pursuing a career outside of the Air Force, these two veterans are proud to be Gaylord students.
“My first piece of advice is don't take every setback too hard because there will be a lot of setbacks and that's okay. And part of the first couple of decades of adulthood is making different choices to figure out who you are and who you want to be,” Hooper said. “It's okay to fail when you are young.”
Due to their hard work and determination to exceed their goals, these two veterans continue to fight for what they believe in. Gaylord College is proud to call Hooper and Alumpe our students and grateful for the sacrifices they made for the United States.