Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Eric Olson: From Mineman to Veterans Association VP

Eric Olson ’22 is a recent University of St. Thomas criminal justice graduate who served in the Navy for almost nine years. During his education at St. Thomas, he was vice president of the Veterans Association and credits the community for helping him get to where he is today. The Newsroom talked with Eric about his work as a mineman, his decision to come to St. Thomas, and future plans.

What motivated you to join the Navy?

I attempted college once before and I wasn’t mature and ready enough. Once college wasn’t working out for me I decided to join. My grandfather was in the Navy so it was a legacy thing in our family and I was really close with him, so that was another motivating factor.

What drew you to St. Thomas? Why did you choose to major in criminal justice?

I was transferring from St. Cloud Community College, I had gotten my associate degree and was looking for criminal justice programs. Around the metro, there are not too many four-year schools that have criminal justice programs; St. Thomas was one of them. A big attraction was all of the assistance for the veterans at the school.

My grandpa, who was also in the Navy, was a cop when he got out. My dad has a criminal justice degree, but he’s in social work, so it’s always been in my family. I like interacting with people, I like helping people, whether it’s a good situation or a bad one. I think that the camaraderie aspect from the military is very big in the law enforcement community, and I think that’s what pushed me toward criminal justice.

I heard you served on a mine detection ship. Can you tell me more about that?

My job in the Navy was a mineman. We located, detected and neutralized underwater mines using sonar. When we found one, we had a type of ammunition package that we’d drive out there and place next to the mine, and once that detonated, it cracked the case of the mine and flooded out the electronics. It was a wood ship, which is a weird thing to hear people say now since not a lot of boats are made of wood.

How did your work with the St. Thomas Veterans Association impacted your college experience?

I absolutely loved it – Norman (Ferguson, Director of Veterans Services) would probably say I spent too much time there. I’m a person where I learned a lot about myself in the Navy. Getting to know people who have a similar background in the Veterans Resource Center was really big for me. Having that space and people who can help you was important, and just all the resources you have at St. Thomas. You’re really treated well on the veterans side at St. Thomas and I truly do appreciate that. It’s a good community to come into.

What are your plans going forward?

I’m looking to apply with the State Patrol here in March to become a state trooper. I think the nice part about St. Thomas is the connections I’ve made through people there, opened my eyes to other job fields than what I thought I was restricted to with my major.