Student Profile: From the military to the mountains

Angie Ford, a non-traditional student at MSU, left home at the age of 23 with 75 cents in her pocket to escape an abusive father. She soon found herself in San Diego working for CALFIRE as a firefighter and EMT.

“Both my grandpas were in World War II, and I always wanted to give back,” she said.

With this in mind, Ford decided to take the plunge and join the Navy. However, because she was home-schooled throughout childhood and did not have a GED, Ford had to earn 19 college credits to be accepted into the Navy. She enrolled at Grossmont College in El Cajon, Calif., where she majored in criminal justice to meet the requirements for enlisting.

She joined the U.S. Navy in 2004 and served until 2010 working on life-support systems in aircrafts, including ejection seats.

However, after six years in the Navy, Ford realized she was not happy with her situation. At the age of 33, she was recently divorced with two children: a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son. She asked herself, “If I could do anything I wanted to — and if I weren’t scared — what would I do?”

This was a turning point in Ford’s life. She fondly remembered a trip her family took to Montana when she was a teenager — she had “fallen in love” with the country around the Bitterroot Valley — so she decided to travel to Montana and tour college campuses with hopes of pursuing an animal science degree.

She arrived in Missoula in November of 2009 and planned to tour the University of Montana before heading south to Bozeman. However, an impending snowstorm forced her to head for MSU without touring UM. She feared the storm would prevent her from making it to Bozeman for her flight home.

“I holed up in the first hotel I came to [in Bozeman],” Ford explained. “When I woke up in the morning, there were 18 inches of snow on the ground, and I thought: This is where I want to be.”

Her kids did not take the immediate liking to Montana weather that Ford did. “They hated the snow, both of them,” she said. “Everybody thought I was crazy taking two little kids from Hawaii, where I was stationed, to Montana.”

With two young children and no financial assistance, “Making the decision to come was the hardest part,” she explained. “There were times when I didn’t know how I was going to feed them.” But in the summer of 2010, she began taking classes at MSU.

Eventually, Ford started to “make ends meet” financially by working at the MSU Writing Center and MSU News while adjusting to the life of a college student. One of her first classes was Writing 101, which she could have tested out of had she arrived in Bozeman in time to take the exam.

The class was taught by Dr. Doug Downs, who became Ford’s mentor and influenced her to change her major to English and study writing. Ford and Dr. Downs worked together to write “Uniform Meets Rhetoric: Excellence Through Interaction,” a chapter in the book “Generation Vet.ed,” which is currently being edited.

Ford plans to graduate in the spring and go on to earn a Ph.D in rhetoric and composition. In the long run, Ford sees herself returning to MSU to teach writing classes. Bozeman is her home.

“I found myself here and ended up being someone I didn’t even know I was,” she said. “People took the time to invest in my life.”