Sandro Villalona '24
Sandro Villalona ’24 to be Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army

Degree: B.S. in Security Management
Mentor: Richard Pusateri, Military and Veteran Services Manager
Program: Military and Veteran Services

Internship: FBI Honors Internship Program
Hometown: Dominican Republic; Patterson, NJ
Career Aspiration: Army General

What was life like before John Jay?
I immigrated from the Dominican Republic with my family. Growing up, I mainly spoke Spanish—it took me two years to learn English. Being a first-generation immigrant, you’re grappling with living in two different words. You’re trying to hold on to your culture and original language, while assimilating into this new country that is giving you a world of new opportunities. It’s one of the reasons I decided to serve in the U.S. Army. I wanted to give back and serve this country and my community.

Why John Jay?
Going to college has been a lifelong dream for me and my parents. After completing a year of training with the U.S. Army, I began applying to colleges. Richard Pusateri was the first person to reach out to me. He invited me to visit John Jay. Once I saw the office and learned about the resources available to military and veteran students, I knew I would feel right at home here. John Jay has such a welcoming environment. Knowing that I could be in a place where I would have a wealth of support from people who speak my language was what sealed the deal for me.

How has the Military and Veteran Services enhanced your experience at John Jay?
The Military and Veterans Services office provides incredible support for its students. There’s academic and advisory support, workshops, and career-focused events that prepare students for life after John Jay. We met with professionals from the FBI, DEA, and law enforcement agencies across the country who shared their career journeys with us. We also worked with social work interns who helped us prepare and improve our resumes. As students who are military service members and veterans, it can be challenging to translate our military experiences into something civilian industries can understand. I know I’ve benefited the Military and Veterans Service office’s services greatly. I’ve also been fortunate to be a work-study student for the office. So, I’ve been able to benefit from their support and offer my assistance to my peers.

What has it been like serving in the U.S. Army Reserve and Army ROTC while earning your bachelor’s degree?
It’s a very busy schedule, especially since I commute into the city from New Jersey. I wake up super early on ROTC days. On a typical day, I do my physical training off-site before coming to John Jay, but I’m grateful for the experience. My time in the Army Reserves and ROTC has taught me discipline and time management. It’s kept me focused, which has made me a better student at John Jay. It’s also allowed me to bring a different, on-the-ground perspective into the classroom, especially in my security management courses. Being in the Army, you’re trained to keep this country safe. Those are skills and training that are beneficial for security management. 

How has your mentor, Richard Pusateri, helped you reach your career goals?
Richard Pusateri has been instrumental to my success. When I first enrolled, I remember telling him I wanted to make sure I majored in an area that would better prepare me for my work with the Army. He suggested security management, could see my vision for the future, and believed in me reaching my goals. Richard’s the biggest champion of military and veteran students at the College, pushing us to go after opportunities and expand our horizons.

What was your experience like as an FBI Honors Intern?
It was thrilling, especially since it’s such a prestigious internship. I was the first John Jay student in years to get this internship. It allowed me to work in Washington, DC, and be around stellar federal agency professionals. I appreciated that the FBI wanted their interns fully involved in the work. We were doing tasks that specifically helped their mission. I was assigned to the FBI police unit, where I worked on managing and analyzing inventory data, helping improve accountability, and figuring out the following year’s fiscal budget. While interning, I saw many career path possibilities I could follow within the FBI. It became one of my goals after retiring from the Army to work for the FBI. 

What are your plans after graduating John Jay?
On June 6th, I’ll be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and serve in the Signals Intelligence Branch. Think of that branch like the Verizon or T-Mobile of the battlefield, analyzing communications and non-communication signals and playing a pivotal role in national security. Hopefully, as my career advances, I’ll reach new heights. My goal is to be a general in the U.S. Army. Once I retire from the Army, I’d love to continue serving the public by working as an FBI special agent. I strive to be someone who keeps the people of this country safe.