With a nine-hour time difference during her deployment to Southeast Asia with the Air Force, junior Haley Sonneman had a couple of key people on speed dial: Veterans Resource Center director Norm Ferguson and veteran academic adviser Nicholas Doten.
“We’re out there with little to no service, no Wi-Fi, and a lot of stuff to figure out,” Sonneman said. “I would just call Nicholas and had so much help getting everything done. … It was extremely helpful to have those two.”
That kind of support is a big part of what has made Sonneman and fellow veterans’ transition to St. Thomas successful, including while maintaining active service. Sonneman – a Duluth, Minnesota, native – joined the Air Force in the summer of 2018 after finishing her first year at University of Wisconsin-River Falls; since then she completed boot camp in San Antonio, Texas; went through tech school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi; completed a deployment to Southeast Asia; and returned to Minnesota last year to attend St. Thomas and continue work with the Air Force 133rd Airlift Wing.
Sonneman’s training and work is in arms aviation resource management, which she described in practice as “checks and balances for the air crew.” The 133rd unit flies C-130s – a four-engine transport plane that’s just under 100 feet long – so her support is of a pilot, co-pilot, engineer and two loadmasters; Sonneman said she enjoys the tight-knit, family-oriented nature of her unit.
That feeling continues for her on campus through the Veterans Resource Center, where relationships with Ferguson and other veteran students support her as she studies international studies. Sonneman said she hopes to someday work in Washington, D.C., potentially with the State Department, and is enjoying working with faculty in the Political Science Department as she works toward a full-time career.
We caught up with Sonneman over Zoom when she was in Duluth for a few days before she returned to the Twin Cities for her dual role as student and Air Force member.
Who inspires you?
This is hard. My mom does. My best friend, Kyra. She’s pretty tough, gone through a lot. She’s a really nice person; she inspires me to be a better person.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love to travel. I’ve been to five different states and four countries this year. Supposed to be five but my trip to Norway got canceled. I like to snowboard. Running; I have to stay in shape for PT tests. I like to read. I like to hang out with my cat. Otherwise I just do school and work 24/7.
What’s your favorite book?
Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. It’s one of my mom’s favorite books, too.
If you could have a perfect day, start to finish, what would be involved?
I would sleep in. Then work out, go for a pretty run on a nice trail. Then go back home to my apartment and just be there. Three to four cups of coffee on my couch, reading a good book. I’d hang out with my friends after a while to myself in the morning. Can I travel somewhere? I’d go to my cabin, in summer, sit on the dock on the lake, maybe do a little fishing. Lake of the Woods. We have an island there. I would probably bring a couple friends and my dad, to drive the boat.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended?
That’s impossible to answer. The best one, Post Malone was really good. I’ve been going to Bon Jovi concerts since I was a kid, a couple front row shows for that. It’s hard to choose between those two; very different vibes. Bon Jovi was also with my mom. I would probably say Bon Jovi concert, the “Have a Nice Day” tour.
What is your favorite song?
That is such a hard question. Can I say my most played song? I listen to so much music. Probably “Circles” by Mac Miller, if I have to choose one right now.