November 16, 2016

Student Spotlight: Neal Van Marter

The life of a modern college student often involves time management, stress maintenance and an active social life. Add one more responsibility for junior Neal Van Marter: service to his country.

Van Marter currently serves as a first sergeant in the college Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Van Marter, who grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Anniston, Alabama said his grandfather, a WWII veteran, instilled within him a profound love and sense of duty to his country at an early age. He joined the Army Reserves during his freshman year, later enrolling in the ROTC program after learning UM offered it through a partnership with UAB.

Now, Van Marter travels to the UAB campus twice a week to take classes and participate in military science labs. One weekend of every month, he performs drills as a member of the reserves. When he’s not busy with ROTC or class responsibilities, Van Marter is fulfilling his role as vice president of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha and the Interfraternity Council.

He credits the experience of 10 arduous weeks of basic training during the summer of 2015 to teaching him the skills necessary to find success in his packed schedule.

Van Marter applies a militaristic focus in order to stay on top of his coursework and maintain his GPA. In addition to pursuing a Spanish degree, he is also taking classes for four different minors: pre-law, political science and Latin American studies along with military science from UAB.

While he is fully prepared to go on active duty after graduation, he also has aspirations of becoming a lawyer. According to Van Marter, he wants to use his legal knowledge to help Hispanic U.S. citizens in need of legal representation.

Van Marter said this career goal is inspired by the struggles his Spanish-speaking mother faced when she needed legal help in the U.S. during his childhood.

“I know there are a lot of Hispanic people in our country that are dealing with a lot of legal things: immigration, custody battles, etc. They are under-represented and taken advantage of legally and should be represented fairly,” said Van Marter

He also looks forward to spreading the word about UM’s ROTC program and wishes to encourage others to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.

“The army has taught me about inspiring people toward something and not just telling people to do something,” said Van Marter. Whether engaged in legal or military battles, Van Marter is confident in his abilities to make a difference.