News Blog

Veterans transfer skills to C of I classroom

They walk among us, blending into the daily parade of people through Morrison Quadrangle. At first glance, they look like any other student. But their military service is what allows The College of Idaho community—and our entire nation—to enjoy our daily freedoms.

For Army veterans Matthew McCauley, Wes Dockstader and Pamela Dockstader, joining the military helped shape and provide guidance for their lives. It also opened the door to higher education and the chance to study at Idaho’s best college.

“At 22, I was working full-time, but I wasn’t progressing in life the way I wanted to,” said McCauley, a senior history major from Maryland.

During basic training, McCauley learned a lot about teamwork and comradery, something that is still applicable to his daily life. After he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, the Army made him more organized, focused and goal-orientated during the six years he served.

Wes and Pamela Dockstader both said the Army helped them become productive members of society, instilled self-discipline and taught them how to be a part of a team.

“In the military, they have a saying, ‘Right place, right time, right uniform,’” said Wes, a C of I junior. “And if you can do those three basic things, you will survive in the military very well, and I did. And I carry that over every day, especially with school.”

The Army also gave the Dockstaders something else—each other. On the day Wes was transferred to Fort Sill and the 117th Field Artillery, Pamela was there to drive him around, introducing him to the base and helping him pick up his new gear. The two hit it off and became fast friends. They also both drove trucks when deployed in Afghanistan from 2010-2011. For a few months, Pamela was even the gunner for Wes’s truck.

“We were just best friends, and we got married when we got back from Afghanistan,” Wes said.

The three C of I veterans found themselves in the Treasure Valley after leaving the military, looking for a place to go to school. McCauley had never been to Idaho before and he asked where all the smart kids in Idaho went to college.

“I guessed Boise State, as I knew about them from football,” McCauley said. “But I was told, ‘No, The College of Idaho.’ So I looked it up, liked what I saw, and came here.”

Wes and Pamela started at Treasure Valley Community College before transferring to the C of I.

“Because it’s the best, and it’s small,” said Pamela, who will graduate this spring.

“I love it, I’m glad I’m here,” Wes said.

And the skills they learned in the military have translated to the classroom. Critical thinking, problem solving, decision making and interpersonal skills are all things McCauley learned while in the Army. And he continues to use those skills while at the C of I. The interpersonal skills especially come in handy when interacting with professors.

“I’m not afraid to ask questions, I’m not afraid to ask for help, and I’m not afraid to challenge them either,” McCauley said. “I think it makes it a more dynamic environment for me.”

Being a history major and learning about military history, tactics, and soldier experiences, McCauley can now view those events through a different lens.

“When I hear that thousands of people die in a battle, it’s not just numbers, you can actually feel what that truly means,” said McCauley, who wants to apply to law school back in his native Maryland upon graduation.

Just like his job in the Army as an intelligence analyst, McCauley likes to put together different pieces of information and research to make sense of days past.

For Wes, it’s the problem solving skills he now applies to a computer science degree and writing code that intrigues him.

Coming to the C of I inspired a new passion for Pamela. She came to school wanting to become a pathologists’ assistant, but she fell in love with microbiology. After graduating, she wants to pursue either a pathologists’ assistant master’s degree or a Ph.D. in biology, while Wes hopes to get a job at Micron.

“I’m so thankful for everything the Army has given me, especially my G.I. Bill,” Wes said. “To be able to go to school is just awesome.”

While all three Yotes are looking forward to future careers, their time in the Army will always stand out as an experience that gave them purpose and instilled values that have shaped the road maps of their lives.

This Veterans Day weekend, The College of Idaho recognizes McCauley, the Dockstaders, and all the men and women who blend into our everyday communities, but who will always hold the special recognition of serving the United States of America.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit