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SVA Voices • James Petersen:
James Petersen, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from St. Louis, Missouri, was the president of the Washington University in St. Louis Veterans Chapter in 2016 and received his graduate degree in Clinical/Medical Social Work. He believes that attending NatCon not only provides you with the tools necessary to build and maintain a successful chapter, it allows you to connect with hundreds of students who are undergoing the same transition that you are. On that note, make sure you attend NatCon 2019! Click here for more information.
Q: What is one of the highlights of your experience as a student veteran?
A: As a member of WUVETS, I was able to meet students whose experiences were similar to mine. Attending grad school after spending several years in Iraq and Afghanistan felt incredibly isolating, especially when most of my peers were several years younger than me and just out of undergrad. Realizing there were other students with shared experiences and backgrounds was not only comforting, but emboldening. I went from "what did I get myself into" to "I can actually do this" and "I'm not alone." Joining my student veteran association removed any self-doubt I had about my decision to go back to school.
Meeting fellow veterans and winning the 2017 Chapter of the Year award were the biggest highlights of my experiences as a student veteran.
Q: How did your SVA Chapter help you to achieve success?
A: In 2016, we organized the biggest Veterans Day event in Washington University history. We had a panel of combat veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. Our keynote speaker was U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. The event was a huge success and the exposure allowed me to network with several St. Louis VA employees. Ultimately, it was these relationships that helped me in getting hired on as a clinical social worker at the VA upon graduating with my master's degree the following May. I do not believe I would be working at the VA right now if not for my SVA chapter.
Q: What advice do you have for other student veterans about succeeding in school, searching for internships/jobs or applying to graduate school?
A: Surround yourself with fellow veterans, but do not limit yourself to only interacting with student veterans. Part of transitioning from the military is getting your sense of "civilian self" back, and it's important to connect with non-veteran students as well.
Q: What do you want to achieve after graduating?
A: I went to graduate school so I could work as a clinical social worker at the VA. The VA was an imperative part of my re-integration and transition back into civilian life, and I wanted to help veterans just like me - I am now doing that.
Q: Tell us a fun fact about you:
A: I got to meet the president at the April 2017 signing of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act executive order.
At Student Veterans of America (SVA) we want to share your story because every story is unique and different! We want to hear about the challenges, opportunities, and moments that ultimately led to your success as a student veteran and SVA chapter leader. Sharing your story will inspire and give hope to others. Whether you’re a current or past student veteran, we want to hear from you! Help us empower student veterans to, through, and beyond higher education. Click here to quickly and easily share your story.