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Front line of academia

June 10, 2010
By Paul Miller

The 500 or so student veterans on campus find assistance in their transition throughout college at the Veteran Services office. Ann Ingala, assistant director of Adult Learner and Veteran Services, an Army veteran herself, is creating a mentoring program, developing a faculty training program, and expanding outreach efforts.

Alastair Johnson, veteran of the British Army, and Joe Beals, veteran of the U.S. Army Airborne, are part of a community of 500 veterans on campus.

Comaraderie and support

At first glance, the Veteran Services office on the north end of the Lory Student Center seems unremarkable. The office, which also houses Adult Learner staff, is typically busy with an amiable hubbub of people gathered around sundry chairs and small tables in a common area.

But this typical place also is a launching point for stories that range from the baking sands of Kuwait to sprawling Fort Lewis-McChord in Washington – and all points between. Those stories are told by student veterans on campus, who find the office a welcome place of support and community.

Although Ann Ingala, assistant director of Adult Learner and Veteran Services, would rather talk about the services her office provides, she also has her own stories to tell. An Army veteran, she was in military intelligence during the first wave of the Gulf War in the early 1990s, a life-changing experience.

“I’m glad I was part of Desert Storm, but I wouldn’t want to ever do it again,” she says. Ingala adds that, compared to veterans coming back from current wars, her tour of duty was relatively short. “I have such admiration for service men and women who are posted multiple times in Iraq and Afghanistan, sometimes 18 months at a stretch,” she says.

Veterans Honor Society expanded

In her civilian life, Ingala isn’t likely to take it easy any time soon. She’s administering a $100,000 grant that’s helping CSU expand its veteran services and create SALUTE, the first-ever Veterans National Honor Society. The grant was given to CSU last year from the Wal-Mart Foundation and the American Council on Education. The University was one of 20 recipients of this Success for Veterans Award and the only Colorado university or college to receive the grant.

Ann Ingala, an Army veteran who served during the first wave of the Gulf  War, is assistant director of Adult Learner and Veteran Services.

As if life weren’t exciting enough, Ingala and her husband, Dave Schultz, are raising 3-year-old twins, and she’s working on a Ph.D. in counseling psychology at the University of Northern Colorado.

500 veterans on campus

The bottom line for Ingala and her staff: help the 500 or so CSU veterans in their transition to college, assist them throughout their college careers, and provide guidance in job searches before and after graduation. That’s on top of a raft of other projects such as creating a mentoring program between incoming veterans and existing students, developing a faculty training program, and expanding outreach efforts.

“We've had welcome-back programs for incoming and returning student veterans as part of Ram Welcome in the fall and spring,” Ingala says. “We want to expand that and have a half-day orientation to help student veterans making transitions from military to college life.

“The need for these services will only increase as more student veterans come back to campus, which we’re anticipating with the post-9-11 GI bill.”

Place to hang out

Another simple yet crucial service: offer veterans a place to hang out. On a cold, clear February day on campus, Alastair Johnson (right) is doing just that. Born in Stoke, England, Johnson was 20 when he joined the British Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer unit. He spent seven months in Kenya at the start of the Gulf War, and traveled to Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Croatia, Canada, United States, and a big chunk of Europe.

“I originally wanted to join the infantry, but the Army needed other skills,” Johnson says. “It turned out much better where they put me. I’ve seen some unique places.” After Johnson was discharged in 2007, he made his way to CSU, where in spring 2009 he began his studies in natural resource management and spatial analysis.

From war zone to Colorado State

Joe Beals (right), a veteran of the U.S. Army Airborne, comes in and sits next to Johnson. The men may look like brothers, but Beals was born in Cherokee, Iowa, and served in Afghanistan, from where all the men and women in his unit returned with just a few injured.

When asked how he landed at CSU as a student, Beals backs up to his time in Afghanistan.

“While I was there, I read a book on hiking the Appalachian Trail,” he says. “That’s the first thing I wanted to do after I was discharged.” Beals not only completed the entire 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine, he later hiked the Continental Divide Trail. He’s now planning the third leg of his trifecta – hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“When I finished hiking the Appalachian Trail, I opened a backlog of mail and found out I’d been accepted to CSU,” he says. This spring semester, he’s taking 17 credit hours toward a nutrition degree in the College of Applied Human Sciences.

Support and serve all veteran students

“Alastair and Joe are great guys,” Ingala says. “Both are involved in our office and serve on the Adult Learner and Veteran Services advisory committee as veteran representatives.

“We’re especially proud to have Alastair with us as a British veteran. He shows just how universal CSU’s effort is to support and serve all veteran students, whether they’re from allied countries or right here in America.”


Originally published in Colorado State Magazine, Spring 2010.