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Air Force Vet's Travels Lead Her to Rutgers-Camden
CAMDEN — Looking back, Heather Hillmer can’t believe her two years at Rutgers–Camden have already come and gone, but the well-travelled Air Force veteran says her stay was much more than just a pit stop.
Hillmer came to Rutgers–Camden in 2010 after a seven-year career as a mechanic for the United States Air Force. The job took her from her home in Madison, Wis. to Texas, Oklahoma, and Japan before she landed in New Jersey, where she enrolled at Rutgers–Camden in 2010 shortly after deciding to not re-enlist in the military.
“I don’t know what it would have been like to go to another university,” says Hillmer, who is graduating this spring with degrees in management and marketing.
“Rutgers–Camden allowed me to get on my feet and find out what I wanted to do with my life after the military,” she says. “When I look back, I can’t believe I’m already done, but it’s been a great experience.”
Hillmer enlisted in the Air Force in 2002 and during her time in the service worked on everything from generators and air conditioners to cargo planes and fighter planes.
“The job helped me grow and learn a lot about myself,” Hillmer says. “It helped me learn that I’m capable of anything. I had a lot of pride in my work and I did the best I could do.”
But she didn’t envision herself as a career Air Force mechanic. She received her associate’s degree in business from Rose State College in Oklahoma and also completed an associate’s degree in the Air Force in connection with her daily maintenance duties.
When the Air Force took her to Fort Dix, now Joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, she started thinking about Rutgers–Camden. Once there, she made the transition from military to civilian life with the help of the veteran students on campus.
“The veterans here are a great network of people that helped me transition from my military life to my college life,” says Hillmer, who also participated in track at Rutgers–Camden. “They’ve been very supportive and I’ve had a great sense of camaraderie at Rutgers–Camden.”
Majoring in management seemed like a natural fit due to her military background and she added a double major in marketing to become a well-rounded business scholar.
“I liked learning how to deal with people and how to lead people. It’s also challenging to me and challenges motivate me,” she says.
Hillmer’s next challenge will take her on the road one more time. She plans to move to Miami and hopes to find a job in management, perhaps at a place like American Airlines Arena — the home of the Miami Heat — where she could help manage events. That’s her dream job.
In the meantime, she says, “I want to find a job that fits my skills and I want to plant my roots there. My mom is coming with me. I’ve never been afraid to travel, explore, and take on another adventure. I think I’m just wired that way.”
Media Contact: Ed Moorhouse