Nov. 18, 2021
Class of 2021: Former Marine wants to help veterans who suffer from addiction
Though an injury cut short her military career, Shae Gavit wants to carry out the oath she took to serve others.
Share this story
Shae Gavit’s plans changed drastically after an injury ended her military career.
“In high school, I had ideas of going the law enforcement route, and that was my plan in the military,” said Gavit, who is graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in December with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in addiction from the College of Humanities and Sciences. “As cliche as it may be, my ultimate goal was to go into some kind of detective work or the FBI.”
Gavit enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006 at age 20 after working for a couple of years to raise money for college. She was still in the early part of her military career when she broke her hip during field training. She was medically discharged in 2008.
“I didn’t get to serve out my contract. I didn’t feel like my service was finished,” said Gavit, a native of Hamilton, Texas. “I felt like I had unfinished business.”
A single parent with two young children, Gavit enrolled as a bio-chemistry major in the VCU School of Pharmacy in 2019. She had previously worked as a pharmacy tech and getting her degree “was the next step,” she said. But being in the program was more stressful and demanding than she had anticipated.
“I couldn’t give my kids the time they needed,” she said. “I switched to psychology as a major for more of a work/life balance.”
Her professors in the psychology department were empathetic and in tune with her struggles as a single mom, she said. When Gavit was trying to home school her children during the pandemic, and also keep up with school, Geri Lotze, Ph.D., an associate professor in developmental psychology, understood Gavit’s commitments and offered her some flexibility.
“She went over and beyond,” Gavit said. “I’ve had professors at VCU do that type of thing millions of times. The faculty is pretty phenomenal.”
“I didn’t get to serve out my contract. I didn’t feel like my service was finished. I felt like I had unfinished business.”Shae Gavit
During Gavit’s time at VCU, she has been working with veterans through the Military Student Services office. In September, she was part of a group of veterans collecting donations to aid Afghan refugees temporarily being housed at Fort Lee and Fort Pickett.
“Director Stephen Ross is the original reason I was attracted to Military Student Services. He is continually going to bat for us every day,” she said. “He has become a father figure. It’s an honor to work with a man of that stature who carries those values.”
Gavit hopes to go to graduate school at VCU to get her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. She would like to work with the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center or a nongovernment affiliated program that works with veterans, active-duty military and military families struggling with substance and alcohol abuse.
“This is a way to continue to serve,” she said. “To help those that took the same type of oath I did.”
Subscribe to VCU News
Subscribe to VCU News at newsletter.vcu.edu and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox.