When Jason Sellers left the Marines in 2014, he knew he wanted to take his life in a new direction. But he didn’t want to leave behind all the experience he’d gained during 16 years of service and four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A bachelor’s degree in human resources seemed like the perfect starting point for this new civilian career path. And that’s what he will receive from Colorado State University’s College of Business this month.
“I knew it was going to be difficult to segue from the military into a civilian position, and without a degree it’s really tough,” he said.
Sellers said CSU initially denied his application because, although he had substantial life experience and skills from his time in the Marines, he also had “not so impressive” high school grades.
Never one to give up, Sellers enrolled in Front Range Community College to improve his academic credentials. When he applied to CSU again in late 2017, with 60 credits and a 3.9 GPA from FRCC, the university gladly welcomed him to the Ramily.
Sellers held several positions during his military career, but his favorite was as a recruiter. He found coaching new Marines – passing knowledge from one group to the next – both incredibly important and incredibly rewarding.
“As I became more senior, I got into positions where I could affect that kind of leadership and pass on that knowledge,” he said. “That’s my real passion – to better people. And betterment is exactly what HR does.”
“It’s an entire community that’s supporting one another.”
—Jason Sellers, outstanding grad
Translating that passion for improving others from a military to a college setting was challenging at first, especially as a nontraditional student. Sellers took on a full course load and immediately joined the Society of Human Resource Management, becoming chapter president after just two semesters. And although he occasionally struggled to relate to his fellow students, his friends were quick to let him know when he needed to pull back.
“I knew there would be challenges adjusting and adapting myself to a younger generation,” Sellers said, “but it’s been a privilege and an honor to work and learn alongside younger students. They’ve been able to teach me a lot of great things and pull me into a new generation.”
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to work and learn alongside younger students. They’ve been able to teach me a lot of great things and pull me into a new generation.”
—Jason Sellers, outstanding grad
In addition to coursework and leading SHRM, Sellers also completed two internships during his two years at CSU, one as an HR generalist intern at Western Union, and one as a talent acquisition intern at Nutrien in Loveland, which gave him an opportunity to put some of his Marine recruiter skills to work.
Last spring, he also participated in the annual HR case competition at the University of Wyoming, helping lead his three-person team to a first-place finish.
“We didn’t focus on winning but on learning, on taking away something that would benefit us, that we could apply to future situations,” Sellers said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed his post-graduation plans, Sellers is optimistic. He plans to move with his family to Denver once he finds the right position – one that aligns with his passion and goals of becoming a company director or vice president.
As he moves into his civilian career, Sellers said he is thankful for the experiences he’s had in the College of Business.
“Being a Biz Ram, with that kind of support system, with the right community involvement and having a fantastic degree from reputable university – to be an alum and to have that title – that really means something, and people should be proud of that,” he said.
“I have a very strong passion for training and for improving, and that was probably the best reward for me being in the Marine Corps.”