A panel of UNC Charlotte student veterans was one of many groups to speak at a conference in the Student Union Feb. 28. Other distinguished guest speakers included current North Carolina Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Prosser and UNC Charlotte Psychology Professor Richard Tedeschi. Topics ranged from research on post traumatic stress conducted by university professors to panel talks by representatives from the Student Veterans Association who discussed personal experiences adjusting to life outside the armed services.

The Student Veterans Association is an on-campus, student-led organization that provides a social support network for student veterans from all military branches. Members in the panel represented three branches of the armed forces and fielded questions from students, faculty and miscellaneous conference attendees. Faculty and staff discussed methods to better connect student veterans with essential, relatable social support on campus, such as veteran specific SOAR sessions and improved training on preventing the alienation of student veterans on campus.

Panel moderator and retired U.S. Army veteran Jerry Dahlberg spoke on the impact that veteran outreach in the campus has on welcoming service members home. Dahlberg, a UNC Charlotte College of Engineering graduate, now works in the College of Engineering helping veterans excel and plug-in upon entering the college environment. Dahlberg works with the Department of Veteran Student Services which provides specialized service for student veterans entering the UNC system. Dahlberg has been involved with helping veteran students enter the workforce in places like the Department of Defense and naval research and development careers. Dahlberg has been involved with staff training to help utilize student veterans to improve performance of not only the student veterans themselves, but the class as a whole.

“We’re putting these vets in positions of responsibility in the classrooms and using the skills we already have to get the job done every day,” Dahlberg said.

The panel of six student veterans, comprised of both officer and enlisted military personnel, each took questions addressing their own personal experiences and opinions on returning to civilian life. A popular topic at the panel was the discussion of the difference felt by student veterans between themselves and their peers on the topic of work ethic and mindsets involving coursework. The panel highlighted the critical importance of helping veterans, both returning to college after hiatus and the student veteran entering the college environment for the first time, feel connected and supported by a network of peers and mentors who both experienced and truly understand what veterans experience.

The Student Veterans Association continues to reach out and provide support for all service members on the UNC Charlotte campus.