Success Stories

The Rise of a Scholar

Posted on May 23, 2014

Picture of Zachary Ochoa

To listen to Zachary Ochoa today, you’d never know that he arrived at John Tyler Community College purely as a matter of chance.

Ochoa grew up in a military family, and he’d always planned on enlisting after high school.  But, a recruiter made an error on Ochoa’s paperwork, and Ochoa suddenly found himself facing a year with no plans.  Quick decisions were made.  Ochoa would attend John Tyler Community College.

Just four short years later, with degrees from Tyler and James Madison University behind him, Ochoa’s  long-term goals include: being recognized on Tyler’s Giving Tree, creating a scholarship for Tyler students, and eventually being asked to be the College’s commencement speaker.  Cleary, Tyler made a difference in Ochoa’s life, and he intends to repay the College that, “prepared him so well,” for JMU. 

Ochoa maximized his college experience.  At Tyler, he was the vice president for leadership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a tutor, and a founding member of the Writing Club.  His writing, research and time-management skills improved, and he learned how to tap into college resources and lead organizations.  He used a Guaranteed Transfer Agreement to transfer to Madison.  There, he worked as a research assistant, took on a senior honors research project and worked as a student assistant with the Department of Political Science.  He was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and was published.  

As a research assistant at Madison, Ochoa researched rogue states and analyzed recently declassified documents on the Bosnia conflict.  His senior honors thesis examined the rise of superpowers.  “Understanding a rising superpower is about analyzing its potential,” said Ochoa.  “I concentrated my research on what leads to a country becoming a superpower.  This research allowed me to make a real contribution to my field and provided an opportunity to do original research, expanding the knowledge and understanding of the subject.”

Ochoa presented his research at the 2014 Colonial Academic Alliance Undergraduate Conference in Maryland, and his senior honors thesis won the International Affairs Major’s Best Thesis Award for 2014.  Now that he has graduated from Madison, Ochoa plans to move to Fredericksburg and work at GEICO as a management trainee.

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