As we commemorate Veterans Day, we have the distinct privilege of introducing a remarkable individual who embodies the values of service, leadership and dedication. Chief Master Sgt. Michael J. Rakauckas has not only served his country in the military but has also taken on a new role as a student trustee at Thomas Edison State University. His journey is a testament to his unwavering commitment to excellence and a dedication to making a positive impact in the lives of those he serves.
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Rakauckas's career journey began in March 1992 by joining the Air Force as a law enforcement specialist. In 1998, he made a transition to the New Jersey Air National Guard. Over the years, Rakauckas's service took him to various corners of the world, including deployments in support of operations like Southern Watch, Vigilant Warrior, Provide Comfort, Restore Hope and Bright Star.
In the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Rakauckas was mobilized as a Security Forces Raven, playing a pivotal role in critical operations such as Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Coronet Oak. His dedication and leadership qualities shone brightly when he led the ANG SF Defender Challenge Team to victory in worldwide competitions.
Throughout his career, Rakauckas has shown incredible versatility, serving as the Air Base Defense Operations Superintendent and Combat Aviation Brigade liaison in Baghdad, Iraq, during the pivotal year of 2007. He continued to play a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
In his civilian career, Rakauckas served over two decades with the Mount Laurel Police Department in New Jersey. He retired in 2019 as a Lieutenant, where he served as the Operations Division Commander.
As a testament to his distinguished service, Rakauckas has received a multitude of awards and decorations, including the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal, and Air Force Commendation Medal, among others.
Discovering the Role of Student Trustee
The student trustee role requires a strong advocate for students, ensuring their needs and concerns are addressed in the decision-making process. Rakauckas will be critical as TESU continues to seek ways that improve the University process for all students.
It was at a TESU event that Rakauckas learned about the role of the student trustee through President Merodie Hancock, who shared the details and requirements of the position.
Being selected for the position felt “a testament to the dedication and hard work I have put into my academic journey thus far. It is a privilege to be part of a team that is committed to moving the university forward and making a positive impact on the lives of students.” Rakauckas said. "I am truly humbled and honored to have this opportunity to learn and grow as a student trustee at Thomas Edison State University."
One feature that stood out to Rakauckas was the chance to collaborate with a diverse group of individuals who all share a common goal of enhancing the university experience. He looks forward to contributing unique perspectives and ideas while working alongside University leadership and the board of trustees in shaping the future of TESU.
Aspirations as a Student Trustee
Deeply motivated to grow personally and professionally through this role, Rakauckaas will be exposed to opportunities to participate in the decision-making process, engage in strategic planning and representing the student body. Activities that will offer a chance to further develop his essential leadership skills, critical thinking abilities and a deeper understanding of higher education administration. "The opportunity to develop my leadership skills is a feature of this role that I am particularly excited about," Rakauckas adds. “This experience will undoubtedly help me become a more effective leader and advocate for students' needs and concerns.”
Written by Thomas Edison State University