Amanda Hansford is a senior occupational therapy major, 28-year-old mother of two and a non-traditional student. She was first introduced to Veterans Studies when she took VTS 200 in spring 2021. Now she is an active member of the Veterans Studies Alliance student organization. “Currently, I work as a COTA/L at a nursing home, and I have clients who are veterans. But everything starts with why I’m going into OT. I went through several years where I was unsure about what I wanted to do. My mom told me about Occupational Therapy – that it can be fun teaching people to be independent and enable them to do the activities they love to do regardless of their diagnoses. When I start my career, I want to understand a wide array of individuals, and that’s why I got involved with the Veterans Studies Alliance group.” VSA promotes co-curricular and professional development for students seeking careers in veteran services, cultivates a campus environment inclusive of veterans and their perspectives and provides service-learning opportunities for members and educational outreach to EKU and surrounding communities.
One of the most important things I learned in my Veterans Studies course was that no two veterans are the same,” Hansford recalls. Co-curricular development is the education that college students get outside their classes. For example, the organizational motto of the Veterans Studies Alliance is “officium, cogitatio, compassio,” Latin words meaning, respectively, “civic duty, thought, and compassion.” This motto captures the spirit of a student group inclusive of dozens of students from majors such as occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, social work, political science, and business. Each one learns through service and forms friendships.
“I could make an argument for students in any major getting involved with VSA. It’s likely most students in the helping professions – health care, law enforcement, social work – will work with veterans. But even business managers may find themselves trying to tap into the talents veterans are bringing to the work force. Politicians need to understand their veteran constituents. Veterans are a cross-section of American society, and our student group provides a space for non-veterans and veterans to come together in a spirit of unity and shared understanding,” said chapter advisor Dr. Travis Martin. Hansford’s work in Occupational Therapy and Veterans Studies have better equipped her for the career awaiting her after graduation. “Sometimes you don’t know the right thing to say. This program has helped me be more comfortable with that. It has taught me how to learn about and from veterans.”
Samuel Lewis, an EKU psychology major planning on a career in mental health counseling, serves as the group’s president. “The alliance is an amazing group in which the members marshal their various talents in service of a worthy cause. This only grows as our numbers grow and the alliance has a bright future ahead of it as this is only the beginning,” he says. The Veterans Studies Alliance is open to all Eastern Kentucky University students. It is for veterans and non-veterans and for students of any major. Even if you’ve never taken a Veterans Studies course, you are sure to have a rewarding experience.