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ODU Grad Turned Naval Officer Gives Shipmates a Campus Tour

Hannah Smith, a 2022 Old Dominion University graduate, set sail with the Navy not long after earning her strategic communication degree.

Since July, she's served as assistant public affairs officer assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, homeported in Norfolk.

Her ODU communication classes helped her hit the ground — or the deck — running.

"ODU did well in training me for what I'm doing now," said Smith, an ensign commissioned out of Officer Candidate School. "Some of the research tactics we directly use in the Department of Defense ... I came in knowing from my public affairs training here."

Smith recently returned to ODU's campus to show off her alma mater to members of the media department team from the George Washington.

She and five sailors toured ODU facilities, learned about resources, visited the Military Connection Center office in Monarch Hall, and sat in on a Strategic Communication writing class taught by lecturer Steffon Campbell.

Smith arranged the tour by connecting with her former professor Brendan O'Hallarn, who directs ODU's Strategic Communication major. O'Hallarn welcomed the idea and offered to act as the group's host.

"The visit couldn't have gone better," O'Hallarn wrote soon after. "Dr. Campbell is great at incorporating real-world elements into his lessons, and when he found out that Naval communicators would be in his classroom, he turned them into interview subjects for the day. Great class!"

Smith hoped the ODU tour would help her team see that communication skills developed in the Navy could serve as a foundation for a career inside or outside the military.

"What they're doing in the Navy is completely transferrable out into the civilian world," Smith said. "It's really easy on the ship to think you are operating in a bubble ... I wanted them to see that if they decide to get out after so many years, their skills are needed and wanted elsewhere."

George Washington sailor Bruce Morgan — a mass communication specialist second class from North Bay, New York — got the message.

"It's great to meet everybody and see more of the Norfolk community," Morgan said. "I felt really welcomed here. I liked the military connections offices."

The Military Connection Center offers a lounge where students with service backgrounds can relax and socialize. It also includes a Cyber Lounge and reservable study spaces.

Another member of Smith's team from the George Washington, John Jarrett, said he was impressed with the array of veterans' services at ODU — and the fact that so many people within the university community have strong military ties.

"Just to know that there are people here who can relate to our situation, it's pretty cool," Jarrett said. "We felt very welcomed."

Another shipmate, Joshua Cabal, found the tour particularly relevant.

"I get out in six months," Cabal said. "Seeing a college that I could end up going to was really cool for me. This was a lot of good information."

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