Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Aaron Chaney’s college career mirrors the mission of the Chillicothe Campus

Serving others has been a common theme of Aaron Chaney’s OU-C career and one he looks to continue after graduation. Chaney, a military veteran, has been selected to deliver the Pledge of Allegiance during the campus’ Recognition of Graduation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 in the Shoemaker Center.

That evening, he will receive his diploma for having earned an associate degree in human services technology. He will then enroll in the campus’ social work bachelor’s degree program in the fall.

In many ways, Chaney exemplifies the essence of the Chillicothe Campus experience. The campus was founded in 1946, largely to provide World War II veterans the opportunity to use their GI Bill benefits to pursue their college dreams.

Likewise, Chaney is using the GI Bill to pursue his college aspirations.

Further, an important tenet of OU-C’s mission is service to the region. Chaney, as co-president of the Human Services Association (HSA) student club, has been heavily involved in community-service pursuits. Thanks in large part to his leadership, the club earned an inaugural Heritage Community Service Award last fall. (A related story is available online at

After graduating from Chillicothe High School in 1990, Chaney joined the Navy and saw the world, visiting every continent except South America and Antarctica during his 22-year military career. He found his focus in the HST program.

“I initially was going to pursue a nursing degree, but a career in social work made more sense to me,” Chaney explained. “It was a good fit. During the tail end of my Navy career, I was a Chief Petty Officer in the Washington, D. C., area. In that position, I spent a lot of time helping junior Sailors work out issues. If they had a problem, we would need to come up with a plan to help them. That seems a lot like what HST does in that you sit down with a person, try to comprehend that individual’s issues and help come up with a plan to help them out.”

A common theme in Chaney’s pursuits has been an emphasis on making a difference.

“I like to be helpful and to make situations better than when I first encountered them,” he said.

“Whoever you work with, hopefully you made their lives a little better. Sometimes, it just takes an opportunity to sit down, take a deep breath and talk out the situation. I look to help people realize they can fix their problems with a little bit of help and can take steps to help themselves out.”

He also has a deep appreciation for the value of teamwork.

“In regards to community service, the HST program and HSA club are bigger than I am. As co-president with Brandy Diehl, I happen to be the person who was elected to stand out front. When I accepted the community service award, it was a group effort. A lot of people earned that award with their efforts. The greatest benefit is knowing you did a job well done.”

Transitioning from a military career to life as a college student had its challenges.

“It had its own learning curve,” Chaney said. “I had to go from working in a department with 300 people to a whole different situation. I had to learn how to interact with traditional-aged students and process the way they see things while still viewing the world through my own lens.”

Chaney is making his mark on campus.

“Aaron is an outstanding student leader. As co-president of the Human Services Association Club, he has a great working relationship with the other students,” said Barb Mahaffey, HST program coordinator. “Because of his 22 year-year veteran experiences, he has skills that he uses that create wonderfully orchestrated activities. He is intuitive and understands how to help people in many ways. I will miss his expertise and commitment to this program when he graduates this term.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Chaney may toss his hat in the political ring.

“I have not ruled out running for local office,” he said. “I am always looking to find ways I think the city could best manage time and money. It would be another way to help the city and county and to make the area where I grew up a little better. That is what motivates most of my actions.”

Further, faculty marshals for the Recognition of Graduation event have been named. They are Professor Mahaffey, associate degrees; Dywayne Nicely, bachelor’s degrees; and Barbara Trube, master’s degrees.

A nursing pinning ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on May 1 in the Shoemaker Center. Formal commencement exercises are held on the Athens campus May 2 and May 3.

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