Amanda Lalonde ’23 isn’t your typical college student. And yet, she is. She takes a full course load, has an internship, is involved in several student organizations and is an orientation leader.
But at the end of the day, she goes home to her husband and three children.
“I did not have this student experience when I first went to college—this is my second chance,” says Lalonde, a U.S. Navy veteran who previously attended Coastline Community College (graduating with an associate degree in applied marine engineering), Christopher Newport University and the University of South Florida for a semester before pausing her studies and joining the Navy.
Lalonde is a dual major studying psychology and forensic science through the College of Arts and Sciences. She says she loves learning about human behavior and finds her psychology classes particularly interesting as a parent to children with ADHD, even writing her honors thesis on educational support services for children with autism spectrum disorder. She’s also a research assistant in the Psychology Research Labs’ Intergroup Bias Lab.
I found something I’m really passionate about and something I want to dedicate myself to and that’s helping student veterans.—Amanda Lalonde ’23
But it’s in the work with student veterans that she’s found her true calling. And it allows her to connect her background as a veteran, her degree, her interest in behavioral science and her involvement in student organizations with her enthusiasm and excitement for helping others.
“I found something I’m really passionate about and something I want to dedicate myself to and that’s helping student veterans, particularly working on leadership initiatives with female student veterans. With my academic experience and as a post-traditional student, as a mom and as a veteran, I hope that I can pay it forward to somebody else someday,” Lalonde says.
Last January, Lalonde attended the Student Veterans of America National Conference—the largest gathering of student veterans in the world. She says the experience meeting student veterans from every corner of the world “flipped a switch” in her. Between that trip and her internship working on the Vet100 list, which honors the top 100 veteran-owned or military spouse-owned companies in America, with the D’Aniello Institute for Veteran and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), she decided her true interest lies with working with other student veterans in a university setting.
The support she receives as a veteran is a big reason she chose to attend Syracuse University. “Not only do we have this gorgeous building—the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building—that’s dedicated to veterans, but there are so many people at Syracuse who want you to succeed. Having that support helped me to stay motivated, to continue being here and to keep getting involved, because I know I don’t have to navigate this alone,” Lalonde says.
The Picture of Participation
The self-described introvert comes across as anything but. When she’s not working, in class or with her family, Lalonde is around campus. For the past two years, she’s been among one of the first people to greet new students as an orientation leader during Syracuse University Welcome. The days are long and hard, but Lalonde feeds off the energy of the new students and loves making connections with fellow classmates.
She’s also a member of the Forensic Science Student Association, the Student Veteran Organization, SALUTE (the veterans national honors society) and a team leader for the Peer Advisors for Veterans Education (PAVE) program. Lalonde is also a Renée Crown University Honors Program scholar and a 2022-23 Remembrance Scholar—one of the first student veterans ever selected. Lalonde says she never thought she would be doing any of these things when she first applied to Syracuse—that she’s getting much more than a degree and career preparation out of her education.
“I feel like I’m making a mark here at Syracuse that I did not originally intend.”
Lalonde was at first hesitant to apply for the Remembrance Scholarship, which is the highest honor a Syracuse University undergraduate student can receive. It was her roommate at the Student Veterans of America National Convention who convinced her to apply.
“I didn’t get these chances the first time I went to college. I’m going to seize the day,” Lalonde says of why she changed her mind.
Lalonde is incredibly proud to have been selected. “I don’t even know if there’s a word for it other than profound. This is a big deal.”
Not only do we have this gorgeous building—the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building—that’s dedicated to veterans, but there are so many people at Syracuse who want you to succeed.—Amanda Lalonde ’23
When asked how she manages to balance her schoolwork, activities, maintaining a home and being a present parent to her three children, Lalonde pulls out her phone. “This is how I get things done.” From after school clubs to football and cross-country meets, Lalonde is constantly checking her phone for scheduling conflicts.
But in addition to that, there are resources available to her—and every other student—on campus. “I hope other post-traditional students can see that Syracuse offers so much support and so many resources. Take the help, because it’s there and there are people who genuinely want to watch you succeed, like me. I get excited watching other people succeed.”