A Path Less Taken: Terrion Thirsty ’25

When Terrion Thirsty ’25 joined the United States Marine Corps, it was supposed to be the start of the long military career he’d envisioned since middle school. Step by step, he followed the path set for him: boot camp in South Carolina, artillery cannoneer training in Oklahoma, being stationed in the Mojave Desert and Okinawa, Japan. But four years on, his once-certain view of the future became decidedly less clear.  

“One of the ways I thought I could help out the world was by toting a rifle around,” Thirsty says. “The reason I got out after four years was because I realized, that’s not the answer for me.” 

All along, Thirsty nurtured disparate interests—philosophy, drawing, weightlifting, a love of learning itself. When he discovered Wesleyan through the nonprofit Posse Foundation, the prospect of enrolling piqued his curiosity. He was anxious, too, questioning whether there was a place in an elite liberal arts institution for military veterans and nontraditional students like him. “I’m starting to realize that people deal with those feelings no matter what space they’re in,” he says. “It’s a matter of being willing to be vulnerable with people.” 

These days, Thirsty is pursuing a Science in Society major and a minor in human rights advocacy. And while he’s been a Warrior Scholar Project fellow and part of the veteran community on campus since arriving at Wesleyan, he’s consciously branched out and picked up new passions. An avid writer, he’s worked as a peer mentor for the Writing Center. He’s shared the basic punching combinations and footwork he learned from a corporal with the University’s boxing club. As a student research associate for Black Box Labs, he’s contributed his emerging talents for graphic design and art direction toward a cross-disciplinary multimedia project called The Grand Digital Menagerie.  

The detours and hiccups along the way have produced valuable lessons. (“I don’t want to spend hours and hours counting colonies of bacteria,” he says.) And he’s come to see another side of the self-doubt he felt before matriculating into Wesleyan: When the classroom grows silent, the veterans are often the only ones willing to ask the question everyone else has on their minds. “I’m in an exciting position right now,” he says. “I’m exploring talents and abilities that I couldn’t recognize before, picking up new skills, satisfying my curiosity, and putting myself on a pathway to help others.”  

As for the future, Thirsty says he cares more about pursuing his passions than chasing bigger paychecks. With the redwoods of California crowding his imagination, he has designs on spending time out west as a wildland firefighter. After that, perhaps he’ll focus on sociology. Who knows? 

“I’ve grown so much from being in this space,” he says. “Sometimes the pathway isn’t meant to be completed, at least not in the way that we traditionally think about it. Whatever happens, you’ll make your decisions and adapt along the way.”