By Amanda Loudin
When you’re a member of the military, there’s someone telling you where to be, what to do, and when to do it, pretty much around the clock.
When you’re a university student, the opposite holds true. The choices available to you — good and bad — are almost limitless. Professors give you assignments and deadlines, but the choice to show up to class and turn your work in on time is up to you.
No one understands this contrast and challenge better than Julius Moore II, retired Army sergeant first class, assistant director of the MLK Scholarship Association at Seton Hall. Moore, 45, brought a full military career with him when he began his university teaching experience in 2015.
Tasked with providing guidance to the University’s ROTC students, Moore initially worried about his new job. “I had just finished my associate degree when I arrived at Seton Hall,” he explains. “I was nervous because I had never taught students before.”
What Moore had done during four deployments, however, was lead. He had also served as a drill sergeant, laying a foundation from which to now lead students.
Still, there were differences. “In the military, there’s a power dynamic in place that dictates everything you do,” he says. “In education, you’ve got college students with aspirations to become an officer, and I felt like an imposter teaching them.”
Yet Moore had a knack for teaching his new charges. “The students encouraged me to continue my education and become Dr. Moore,” he says. “I listened.”
Soon after beginning at Seton Hall, Moore began a quest to obtain first his bachelor’s degree, followed by a second associate degree, and then his master’s. He did all that while teaching, and helping his wife raise their blended family of six children. “There were moments I thought I wouldn’t graduate, but I learned that a student can’t be afraid to ask for help,” he says.
Today, Moore is in pursuit of his Ph.D., with plans to defend his dissertation and graduate in the spring of 2024. Hillary Morgan, program director for higher education in the Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy, is serving on his dissertation committee. “I first met Julius in the fall of 2020,” she says. “He was so engaged, and he cared deeply about the students he was working with.”
Morgan says that in Moore’s case, at times it was the student teaching the professor. “I learned from him because I don’t have a military background and he wove that experience into every class,” she explains.
As Moore adjusted to his life as both a student and teacher, a new mission became clear to him: helping student veterans connect to higher education. “Many veterans aren’t aware of the path they can take in education, and Julius wants to help them bridge that gap,” says Morgan. “He is a passionate advocate for this group, and he stands out for his dedication.”
The Rev. Forrest M. Pritchett, senior adviser to the provost for diversity, equity and inclusion at Seton Hall, and a mentor to Moore, has witnessed this advocacy in action, and is impressed. “I’ve watched a mature man climbing up the ladder of life,” says Pritchett. “It has required more persistence and determination for him to complete what he has than the typical student entering college.”
To that end, Moore’s dissertation is focused on student-veteran persistence, a perfect topic for him to tackle. “The challenge for veterans is entering a completely different environment,” he says. “The military tells you what to do, and once you leave, everything is strange and different. I want to help veterans persist through college.”
Both Morgan and Pritchett will tell you Moore is already accomplishing that goal. Says Pritchett: “He’s made a quantum leap in academia, and now he’s sharing that experience and making a difference with young veteran scholars.”
Amanda Loudin is a Maryland-based freelance writer.