“Don’t quit, don’t give up. You’ll persevere, and in the end it’ll be worth it."
David Mecum '17, father, veteran and triple-major graduate, discusses his Saint Martin's experience and how it felt to attend Commencement with his two-year-old son, Mason.
At Saint Martin’s 2017 Commencement on Saturday, May 20, David Mecum ’17 approached the stage like many other graduates. He looked forward to marking the close of his academic journey—one that had allowed him to triple major in criminal justice, psychology, and social work—and receiving his diploma along with a handshake from Saint Martin’s University President Roy F. Heynderickx. Unlike many other graduates, though, Mecum was accompanied to the stage by his two-year-old son, Mason, who had also been there for much of his father’s Saint Martin’s journey. When the Mecums crossed the stage together, Mason, with his pacifier in his mouth, accepted the diploma and the handshake from President Heyndrickx. “It was amazing,” Mecum says. “He’s been coming with me to class for the last two years—basically his whole life.”
Family comes first for Mecum, the father of three boys—Skyler, 11, Jayden, seven, and toddler Mason. When Mecum left the Army in 2011, he did so because he wanted to spend more time with Jayden, his then-youngest son, who was only 14 months old at the time. Mecum had received an assignment for a three-year stint in Korea, which was too long for his liking. “Jayden wouldn’t have known me as his dad,” he says. “He wouldn’t have known me like he does now.”
Mecum initially chose Saint Martin’s because it was the closest university to his home in Lacey. At that time, he was not only leaving his career in the Army, but was also going through a divorce, and he didn’t want to commute to a faraway university. After he got to know the University better, what impressed Mecum was the community and the people. “Everybody—students, professors, advisors—everybody was just so overwhelmingly welcoming and helpful. The veteran’s representatives are so knowledgeable and were on top of everything,” he says. “[And] the diversity, the different clubs—it was a great environment. That’s why I said to myself, ‘This is where I want to be.’”
He decided to pursue three degrees in order to take full advantage of his veteran’s benefits, and he chose criminal justice, psychology, and social work because he wanted to learn more about the legal aspects of common rights, the inner workings of the human mind and serving others with compassion.
To complete his triple major, Mecum attended classes for five years straight—including summers—which would be a staggeringly difficult schedule for anyone, let alone for someone who’s a single parent. Throughout his time at Saint Martin’s, Mecum found help from the faculty members who served as his professors and advisors. His first advisor, Robert Hauhart, Ph.D., J.D., professor of criminal justice, sociology, and legal studies, helped him acclimate to the rigorous academic demands of the University. “Dr. Hauhart held me to a standard that, when I got out of the Army, I’d forgotten existed,” Mecum says. “He had a big influence on me, and made me work that much harder, which I appreciate.”
Besides the academic help he received, Mecum was also grateful for the personal understanding that his professors showed him. There were numerous times throughout his five years that he wanted to be in class but couldn’t—whether because Mason was sick or because he was called into work—and his professors kept him apprised of class work and helped him get caught up.
Mecum praised the influence of Prof. Katya Shkurkin, Ph.D., MSW, ACSW, LCSW, director of the University’s social work program, and Prof. Tam Dinh, Ph.D., MSW, assistant professor of social work and director of the field practicum for social work. “Dr. Shkurkin has a way of looking into your soul and she touches it somehow,” he says. “By her mannerisms, the way she talks to you, talks about people, and her willingness to help and be there and be supportive—that’s huge. Dr. Dinh was straightforward and honest and told me what I needed to do, no ifs, ands or buts. Both of them, Dr. Shkurkin and Dr. Dinh, leave their mark no matter where they go.”
Reflecting on the advice that he would give to incoming students, Mecum did not hesitate to share what he’d learned. “Don’t quit, don’t give up. You’ll persevere, and in the end it’ll be worth it,” he says. “Stay in constant communication with your professors, because no matter what the situation, what the scenario is, what you’re going through, the professors are there to help.”
In the future, Mecum would like to attend graduate school to pursue his master’s degree in social work, but for now he’s enjoying a little time off from school. “I’ve been in class for the last five years, no breaks, summer courses all the way through. I enjoyed it, honestly. But I need to take a break,” he says, laughing.