Outstanding Graduate Barret Flaminio Excels as Communication Major After Army Career

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – After a 24-year career in the Army and Army Reserve that included a 14-month deployment in Afghanistan, Barret Flaminio looked to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to pursue a college degree. A nontraditional student, Flaminio said the decision to pursue a bachelor’s degree was anything but easy, given his role as father and husband.

“I didn’t have much anxiety going into a combat zone, but my heart would race when I was about to go into a class or if I had to talk during a class, which was especially weird because I had been doing presentations as an Army recruiter for years,” Flaminio said. 

In addition, Flaminio said he struggled deeply with self-doubt regarding academic aptitude because of an admittedly underwhelming academic performance in high school back home in Union Grove, Wisconsin. 

“I was not a great student at all – I was kind of more the class clown and was more interested in having fun than doing schoolwork,” he said. “I got my diploma and then joined the military.” 

At the Island University, however, Flaminio has blossomed as a student and is set to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a 3.7 GPA. Flaminio was selected by the Office of the Provost as an Outstanding Graduate for the spring 2021 semester. He will participate in the Island University Commencement Ceremony on May 15.

As an Army enlistee, Flaminio said he chose to follow in the footsteps of grandfather Forrest Flaminio, who served in the Korean War. After joining the military in 1995, Flaminio served as a helicopter mechanic for several years before becoming a combat engineer in 1999 for the next 11 years.

“I just really wanted to be on the front lines of things,” he said.

A reservist in the Army Reserve, Flaminio went on active duty when he was called up to serve in Afghanistan in 2003, where he and other combat engineers were tasked with disarming or safely detonating landmines left behind by the Soviet Army during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s.

“We were there to get rid of 19.5 million landmines,” Flaminio said. “I was very lucky that I was able to get all of my guys out of there with no major injuries.”

However, Flaminio himself suffered a significant back injury while building shelters for Afghan medical compounds at the end of his tour. After assessing his options, Flaminio chose to become a recruiter, and eventually ended up in Corpus Christi.

When Flaminio’s career in the Army came to an end, he briefly enrolled in the computer science program at TAMU-CC before switching to communication studies based on the encouragement he received from his fiancé, now wife, Lori Flaminio. The couple have a blended family with four children – Drake, Isabella, Nate, and Tyler.

“None of this would have happened without Lori,” Flaminio said. “I think I still had a lot of anxiety about how I had exited high school, and I felt like that was going to happen to me in college. And it was her reassurance that kept me going.”

At the Island University, Flaminio said he was struck by the passion and emotion in Communication Professor Diana Ivy’s lectures.

“Her teaching style just spoke to me,” he said. “You can tell Dr. Ivy genuinely cares about her students. And she knows her stuff – I think I’ve had four of her textbooks that she has written since I’ve been studying communication.”

Ivy said Flaminio quickly established himself as a sharp student whose self-assuredness drew other students to him.

“Barret is quick, but there’s also a humility and awareness in him,” Ivy said. “He works very hard and is always prepared.”

Ivy said her doctoral dissertation focused on the communication of nontraditional college students versus traditionally aged students. She said students like Flaminio face challenges of fitting in and of responding to what could be “rusty” study skills.  However, in Flaminio’s case, he has flourished during his time as an Islander.

“I think his age, experience, and veteran status all serve him well. He handles himself so genuinely and skillfully,” Ivy said. “Proving oneself in the academic world at a later stage in life is a challenge that many nontraditional students feel. Perseverance is key, and our university continues to support students of diverse experiences and backgrounds.”

During his time on campus, Flaminio also served as an orientation leader for Islander Launch for about a year. As an orientation leader, he prepared packets for incoming students, led students and guests around campus during orientation sessions, and led Q&A sessions with incoming students to help welcome them to the Island.

“The thing I loved most was getting to talk to the incoming students and help get them excited about becoming an Islander,” he said.

For Flaminio, his best memory as an Islander is literally the first day his journey began: the day he received his acceptance letter.

“I felt a huge sense of pride. I was so happy to have been selected to become a part of the Islander community,” Flaminio said. “In the Army, many of my awards were given to me as a part of my unit. They were an honor to receive, but being accepted to the Island was an individual accomplishment.”  

Looking ahead, Flaminio plans to enroll in the TAMU-CC Master of Arts in Communication program with an eye toward teaching or perhaps becoming a business consultant. For now, he said he’s still coming to terms with the news that he was selected to be the spring 2021 Outstanding Graduate for the College of Liberal Arts.

“This is just a huge honor, and I am so happy to be able to bring credit to my family – my parents, Debra and William Flaminio, Lori, and our kids,” he said. “I come from a traditionally blue-collar family, and I am the first member to successfully attend and graduate from an institution of higher learning. In doing this, I have set an example for my children and hopefully changed the trajectory of future generations.”