When students walk in to VCU’s Military Student Services they may be met by work-study student Britney M. Subbs. According to co-workers, her contagious smile and positive, outgoing demeanor are a great first impression for anyone who may walk through the door. A smiling face and bubbly personality may not be what one might associate with a Navy veteran, but Subbs crushes any negative stigma that may exist.
Subbs’ journey to VCU might not be considered the normal path taken and her reason for becoming a Ram might come as a surprise. Her decision to become a Ram can be summed up by a single word: diversity.
“This school is diverse, we’ve got it all,” explained the 27-year-old senior. “You’re going to learn from professors, but you’re going to learn from students as well and that attracted me here.”
Subbs joined the Navy in 2007 after graduating from high school in northern Florida. As an interior communications electrician, Subbs’ primary duties included working on systems on ships, including radios, televisions, cameras, and laser systems used to guide and signal pilots. Subbs said her decision to join the Navy was an easy one.
“I didn’t have any other plans,” Subbs explained. “I was getting ready to graduate, and walking down the hall, I saw these two guys wearing their white service uniforms. I said, man, those guys look sharp, I want to do that.”
After her basic training and electrician schooling, Subbs was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia at Naval Station Norfolk. In May 2010, Subbs went on her first deployment aboard the George H.W. Bush, which was also the ship’s first deployment.
After her deployment and a few more years in the Navy, in 2013, Subbs ultimately made the personal decision not to reenlist and leave the Navy. She said that she needed to find a place where she felt free. She was eventually motivated by her former boss in the Navy to go back to school, so she enrolled at Tidewater Community College in Norfolk.
“I signed up for a few classes and, man, who knew once I started going to school that I was going to like it?” Subbs said. In December 2015, Subbs graduated from TCC with Associate’s Degrees in Liberal Arts and Social Science. She then made the decision to come to VCU to major in history instead of returning home to Florida to attend school.
“I came up here to Richmond before and I loved it here,” Subbs continued. “I could have gone home, but what better way to study history than to be around all of these different cultures. These students are passionate here. Everyone wants a piece of the pie, but they also share and give back to the community.”
Along with her studies, Subbs also works with military-affiliated students at VCU’s Military Student Services (MSS). Her supervisor and assistant director of MSS, William Morley said that having Subbs aboard has been invaluable.
“Where Britney has been so helpful in us achieving our goals and in serving our students is sharing her story,” explained Morley. “It helps us reach out to our students and find common experiences. That ongoing dialogue helps build trust in our veteran community and helps provide us with insight into how we can better serve our students and identify what struggles our veterans are having.”
“Britney is a veteran who has successfully transitioned from the military to academe and continues to give back to her military family,” Morley said. “I hope that we can create more positive examples of this veteran success with students like Britney who do not fit the traditional stereotype.”
Subbs is preparing to graduate this summer after she completes her internship at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. She wants to eventually work full-time in a museum, but for now, says she is excited to graduate. She said that looking back at her life to this point, she made the right decision coming to VCU.
“Everything happens for a reason, and it’s tough, but if you can make it out of here, you’ll definitely learn some valuable lessons,” Subbs concluded. “I have so much pride leaving here. I am a veteran, and I am a Ram.”
Written by Lucian Friel