MVP Program Specialists


Sherie Yoon

Sherie Yoon has been a Programs Specialist with the Military and Veterans Programs Office since February 2014 and was recently promoted to a Training position. Her father is currently active duty in the Army, serving his 21st year in the armed forces as a nurse. Growing up as a military brat, Sherie has moved every three years and lived overseas for six years, prior to coming to Texas Tech University. She has lived in and visited Germany, Italy, Korea, and Italy. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Nutrition as a double major. After graduation, she plans on attending graduate school to become a Registered Dietician and enter the field of Corporate Wellness. Aside from her passion for health and fitness, she is also passionate about helping veterans and their families getting started at Texas Tech University.

Sherie is active in several other organizations at Texas Tech, including the Multicultural Greek Council, Departmental Ambassador Program for Kinesiology, and as a Chancellor’s Ambassador. In her free time she enjoys managing her Chiweenie’s Instagram, crafting, and going to the gym.


Brian Conkin

My name is Brian Conkin. I grew up and went to school in Springlake-Earth, Texas. I have a Bachelor from Texas Tech in Marketing, and I am currently working on a double major to include Management. My goal is to attain my Masters through the Rawls College of Business MBA for Working Professionals Program. I served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2014 in the medical field. I have a five-year-old daughter named Hannah, and we both attend Trinity Church. I officiate football and basketball part-time, and, in my free time, I volunteer at the Trinity Outreach Center and enjoy watching the four major sports. I look forward to helping veterans and their families understand their federal and state educational benefits.


Ikaika (Kai) Iuta

Ikaika Iuta was born and raised in the state of Hawaii. His first name means “strength” in Hawaiian and his last name means “Judah” in Samoan. Ikaika is part Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, and Samoan. Ikaika attended a private Hawaiian school while he lived in Hawaii. After graduating in 2007, He attended Menlo College in Atherton, CA where he played football. After a year at Menlo College, he moved back home to Hawaii where he attended community college in Maui and the Big Island. In 2010, Ikaika joined the United States Army as Motor Transport Operator (88M). He was station at Fort Lewis, WA where he was assigned to the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He was deployed for one year to Kandahar, Afghanistan attached to the 10th Mountain Division and 82nd Airborne Division. Ikaika separated from the Army in 2014 where he continued his education at Green River Community College. He graduated with an Associate of Arts Degree in December 2014. Ikaika enrolled at Texas Tech University in the Fall of 2015 where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. He plans to graduate in December 2017 and attend graduate school to become a school counselor. Ikaika is an avid football fan and his favorite team are the Pittsburgh Steelers with his favorite player being Troy Polamalu.


Philip Gaona

Philip Gaona grew up and went to school in a small town called Shallowater, Texas. Right out of high school, he spent four years in the United States Marine Corp infantry stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines. Philip completed two tours of duty which included a combat tour to Helmand Province, Afghanistan (2009) and on the 26th MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) in support of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR (2011). Philip moved back to Lubbock after his time of service and decided to attend Texas Tech University. He is currently a junior and pursuing his Bachelors in Wind Energy with a Minor in Natural Recourse Management.


James Roberts

James was raised in the small town of Baird, TX, just outside Abilene. He joined the US Navy in 2006 as a Nuclear Electricians Mate. After 2 years of job specific training, he was assigned to the USS Key West (SSN-722), a Los Angeles class attack submarine stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI and Piti, Guam. There he served the majority of his 9-year naval career as a member of the engineering department, charged with the operation and maintenance of the on-board nuclear power plant. He participated in deployment during the Global War on Terror to the Pacific theater and local military operations in the Hawaiian Islands, including Pacific Rim joint exercises coordinated with many countries’ militaries. He left the Navy in 2014, and is currently enrolled at TTU in pursuit of a BS in Physics.

In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and ultimate, skydiving, sci/fi and fantasy, gaming, and learning guitar.


Ryan McElfresh

Ryan McElfresh is a Programs Specialist with the Military and Veterans Programs. As a Navy veteran, he completed over 20 years as an Operation Specialist Chief. He served on four ships, and completed two shore duty tours one as an instructor for Single Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare and one as an Anti-Submarine Warfare Underway Mentor. He also spent four years with Naval Special Warfare where he completed one tour in Iraq and assisted the establishing of the Crisis Response Element in the Middle East. He moved to Lubbock with his family after his naval career and decided to attend Texas Tech University. He is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Dietetics.


Riley Buonamano

Riley Buonamano is currently a sophomore studying Nutrition Health and Wellness at Texas Tech. At the moment she is trying to get her Bachelor's degree in nursing, which she can accomplish after she finishes her prerequisites for nursing school. Riley hopes to get into Texas Tech's nursing program by next year. Riley was inspired to become a nurse because of her mother. Her mother serves as a Nurse Practitioner in the army.
Before coming to Texas Tech Riley traveled the world as a military brat. She was born in Fort Hood, Texas and from there she moved to San Antonio and then Galveston in Texas, Hawaii, Italy, and finally Maryland. Because of the amazing life experiences she had while living as a military brat, Riley chose to work at the MVP office to give back to the active duty service members and veterans.
In her spare time Riley likes to take naps with her two cats, Barry and Tuna.


Joe Raya

Joe Raya is a work-study here at the MVP office. Joe served six years in the United States Air Force as an Aerospace Ground Equipment mechanic. Was last stationed at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina as a Production Support NCOIC. He was charged with tool management and purchases, ensuring (PMEL) Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory items were properly calibrated and building safety inspection completion and oversaw hazardous waste inspections and disposal. He also received an Associate's Degree in Applied Sciences from the Community College of the Air Force. He is a current member of the (VATT) Veterans Association at Texas Tech. He is currently pursuing a Nursing degree here at Texas Tech University.
Joe loves spending time with his wife Ashley and dog bandit. He is an avid football fan both college and professional. He is looking forward to answering questions and assisting in the transition of fellow veterans and their families in starting or furthering their education.


Caleb Cash

Caleb Cash served 4 years in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry rifleman from 2013 to 2017. He deployed to Iraq/Kuwait twice. On his first deployment, he worked as a security enforcer at the United States Embassy, in Baghdad, Iraq. On his second deployment he worked in the country of Kuwait as part of a TRAP team (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel). That same deployment, he went back to Iraq for a month and resumed his duties as a security enforcer; this time at Al Assad Airbase. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in July of 2017. Caleb is now a freshman student-military veteran at Texas Tech University. He is currently majoring in Kinesiology. He hopes to one day become a fitness trainer and own his own HIIT/Warrior gym. Caleb is motivated about helping other veterans like himself, as he understands that transitioning from the military to the civilian world can be quite challenging at times.
Caleb is a fanatic Texas Tech Football supporter, and a skilled tailgate preparer. He loves beer tasting, and going out to dinner/socializing with his friends. He is involved in the Texas Tech Greek system as a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He also tries to maintain a healthy lifestyle, as he runs 3 miles every other day, and performs HIIT based workouts on the side.