Spartans of UD: Rick Ernst

Nov 7, 2018 | University Relations

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Rick Ernst (CSM, USA, Ret.) honorably served our country for 31 years, retiring in August 2014. He earned numerous awards including the Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and the Global Terrorism Medal. As University of Dubuque’s veterans admission and assistance coordinator, Ernst shares his experience to help support student veterans.

Spartans of UD - Rick Ernst
Rick Ernst (CSM, USA, Ret.)
Veterans Admission and Assistance Coordinator l Director of the Sergeant Jeffrey B. Dodge Veterans Center

1. Why were you interested in working at the University of Dubuque?

“I had some experience with the University of Dubuque from my previous relationships with some staff and faculty. Our son and daughter, Rick and Amanda, both attended UD and were commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the U.S. Army from UD’s Army ROTC program. One of the big questions an Army careerist has is: ‘What next? What do I want to do when I grow up?’ When I found out, somewhat by accident, that UD was opening a student veteran center, I realized then and there I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. In fact, I told Jesse James, who was then the dean of admission, as much.”

2. Can you tell me about your service in the United States Army and Iowa Army National Guard?

“I enlisted in the United States Army in 1983, serving at Fort Dix New Jersey, Fort Belvoir Virginia, Fort Benning Georgia, Fort Hood Texas, Fort Campbell Kentucky, Fort Lee Virginia, and Fort Riley Kansas as well as overseas assignments in Afghanistan, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Qatar. I retired August 30, 2014, for a total of 31 years of service.

“I have served in a variety of assignments including Combat Arms units and Combat Support units. As a Command Sergeant Major, I served at the battalion, brigade, and national training center level. My military education includes Support Operations Course, Battle Staff NCO Course, Combat Advisors Course, Basic Leadership Course, Primary Leadership Development Course, Basic and Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course, and the United States Army Sergeant Major Academy. I served as a Senior Infantryman (11Z), Senior Maintenance NCO (91Z), Senior Logistics NCO (92Z), and Command Sergeant Major (00Z). One of my rewarding experiences was training Afghan Soldiers in remote regions of Afghanistan.

“I have received numerous awards including, but not limited to, the Legion of Merit 2nd Award, Bronze Star, three awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, four awards of the Army Commendation Medal, three awards of the Army Achievement Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, two awards of the National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” device and Gold hourglass, nine awards of the Army Good Conduct Medal, and Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Medal with numeral 4. I am a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Enlisted Association, National Infantry Association, American Legion, and the 34th Infantry Division (Red Bulls).”

3. How do you use your own experiences as a veteran to better support our student veterans?

“I can provide student veterans an approach to solving issues and problems through the lens of shared experiences. I have been faced with some of the very same challenges as our student veterans and relate my solutions to them.”

4. What do you enjoy most about your role on campus?

“I believe it is the overarching campus-wide buy-in to the mission of providing young adults with not only academic knowledge and the technical skills to pursue a career, but also with the encouragement tools to develop morally in order to live lives of worth and purpose.”

5. What should students know about the Sergeant Jeffrey B. Dodge Veterans Center?

“The Sergeant Jeffrey B. Dodge Veterans Center is a place to study, relax, and become as engaged as you chose. It is a place to meet individuals with shared experiences as well a place to meet students from across the nation and world.”

6. What piece of advice would you like to share with student veterans?    

“Don’t be afraid to try something new, get out of your comfort zone, get involved, enroll in one of the overseas education trips, and never stop learning.”