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Veterans Studies Interview Series

Veterans of Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, 2010

Veterans of Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki delivers the commencement address at Eastern Kentucky University (2010)


Our Philosophy: Veteran Identity is Intersectional and Non-Monolithic. Veterans Studies is Necessarily Interdisciplinary. 


Feel free to use any of the videos in your classes or communities when discussing veterans' issues. This is a series of used in VTS 200 Introduction to Veterans Studies, taught exclusively at Eastern Kentucky University. Our students gain an interdisciplinary skillset to better understand the veterans they will encounter in their future careers and home communities. 


Dr. Travis Martin, Introductory Video 

Dr. Travis Martin is the founder and Director of the Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies. He is also a former non-commissioned officer and two-time veteran of the Iraq War (2003 & 2005). As EKU’s First-Year Courses Administrator, his day-to-day work involves helping first-semester students succeed in college, a position he likens to “being 50% professor, 50% Army sergeant.” Dr. Martin earned his PhD in English from the University of Kentucky, specializing in twentieth-century American war literature, psychoanalytic trauma theory, and social theory. His research and service interests focus heavily on returning veterans. He is the founder of Military Experience and the Arts, a non-profit which has held two national symposia and published hundreds of veterans’ creative works. He led therapeutic arts workshops for veterans with the ArtReach Foundation. He has interviewed veterans for the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, served as a VFW Service Officer, and he founded EKU’s student veteran organization as an undergraduate. Dr. Martin has given dozens of talks, conference presentations, and invited guest lectures on veterans’ issues. He has published dozens of scholarly and creative short works about the same. Currently, he’s revising his first book-length work on the topic of veteran identity.


Interview with Captain Chad Cassidy, Military Science

Captain Chad Cassidy is a former Assistant Professor of Military Science at EKU. His military education includes the Field Artillery Officer Basic Course, US Army Ranger School, Army Airborne School and the Field Artillery Captain’s Career Course. His civilian education includes an Associate’s Degree from Saint John’s River Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Telecommunications from the University of Florida.


Interview with Dr. Paul Paolucci, Sociology

Dr. Paul Paolucci is a Professor of Sociology and the Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work at EKU. He received his PhD from the University of Kentucky in 2001. He specializes in sociological theory, historical methods, political economy, and the study of population culture. He has published works on class, sociological theory and method, US foreign policy, the mass media, modern racism, and the sociology of humor. He is currently finishing a book on the origins, development, and future of our modern world.


Interview with Dr. Brad Wood, History

Dr. Bradford J. Wood is a Professor of History at EKU. He has taught courses about Early America, the Atlantic World, the British Empire, and related topics since 2000.  During the 1999-2000 school year has was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Knox College.  In 1999 he received his doctorate at the Johns Hopkins University where his dissertation was supervised by Jack P. Greene.  He also holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins, an M.A. from Michigan State, and a B.A. from Wake Forest.

Dr. Wood is the author of This Remote Part of the World: Regional Formation in Lower Cape Fear, North Carolina, 1725-1775, which was published in 2004.  This Remote Part of the World won the inaugural Hines Prize and the Clarendon Award for outstanding contributions to the study of the region’s history. With Michelle LeMaster, he is co-editor of Creating and Contesting Carolina: Proprietary Era Histories, which was published in 2013.  He has also published articles on the Carolinas during the eighteenth century and many book reviews.  Dr. Wood is in the later stages of editing a documentary edition of the letters of North Carolina merchant and planter, James Murray.

He also teaches VTS 350: War and American Society, a course in the Veterans Studies Minor and Certificate Program.


Interview with Dr. Deborah Core, English

Dr. Deborah Core is a Professor Emerita in the Department of English at EKU. During her career, she taught varied courses, from developmental composition to graduate courses in British and American literatures. In fact, she developed the course on twentieth-century American war literature that is an elective in the Veterans Studies Minor and Certificate. Dr. Core served in several administrative positions before retiring. Now, she tutors at-risk elementary school children in reading skills. 


Interview with Dr. Lisa Day, Gender Studies

Dr. Lisa Day is an Associate Professor of English and leads Women & Gender Studies and Appalachian Studies. A renowned community leader on the EKU campus, she is a certified instructor of the Green Dot Anti-Violence Curriculum and a faculty advisor of both the EKU Alphabet Center and Feminists for Change. An active editor, Dr. Day co-edited Journeys Home: An Anthology of Contemporary African Diasporic Experience. She also served as an editor for a new textbook to be used in AFA 202: The African American Experience. She helped edit five journals published by Military Experience and the Arts, among other print and web publications. Her regularly scheduled classes include Intro to Women & Gender Studies, Feminist Theory & Practice, Women's Literature, and Rape Culture in Literature & Media. Dr. Day also teaches study abroad courses in Italy.


Interview with Dr. Eugene Palka, Geography

Dr. Eugene Palka is a specialist in the field of Military Geography, a sub-field used by academics and politicians to understand the relationships between humans and their terrain through a military lens. Dr. Palka is a 1978 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  He later earned an M.A. from Ohio University and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He served in the U.S. Army for more than 33 years as a commissioned officer.  Prior to arriving at EKU, he spent the last 13 years of his military career at West Point, serving in successive positions as the Director of the Geography Program, Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Geography & Environmental Engineering, and Professor and Chair of the Department.  During his tenure at West Point, he also deployed to both Afghanistan in 2002 and Iraq in 2009.

Dr. Palka currently serves as the Vice President for Student Success at EKU. An accomplished professor, researcher, and author, he has served as a research colleague and distinguished lecturer for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C., and for the National GeoSpatial Intelligence Agency in St. Louis. He was also a research fellow with the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California.  He has generated more than 75 publications, including multiple books, monographs, book chapters, instructor's manuals, and articles on various topics in cultural, historical, environmental, and military geography.  He has presented numerous papers at professional conferences and delivered more than 65 invited lectures.

His Army career included tours of duty with the 101st Airborne Division, the 6th Infantry Division, the 46th Infantry and 16th Cavalry Regiments, the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, and the 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.


Interview with Dr. Theresa Botts, Psychology

Dr. Theresa Botts is an Assistant Professor of Psychology and she received her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Kentucky in 2001. She completed the internship requirement for that degree at the Leestown Mental Health Clinic at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Lexington, KY. Since then, she has led a number of initiatives to support the mental well-being of college students, including projects designed to serve military veterans. Her specialty interests include trauma and grief work, gender related issues, depression, and anxiety disorders. Much of her clinical work focuses on the juvenile and young adult populations. Her therapy integrates feminist, cognitive-behavioral, and systemic approaches to mental health.


Interview with Dr. Melinda Moore, Psychology

Dr. Melinda Moore is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at EKU. She also has a private practice in Lexington, Kentucky, and routinely trains clinicians in suicide-focused treatment.  Dr. Moore serves on the board of the American Association of Suicidology as the chair of the Clinical Division and is the co-leader of the National Action Alliance’s Faith Communities Task Force.  She recently published The Suicide Funeral: Honoring their Memory, Comforting their Survivors with her co-author Rabbi Dan Robert. She conducts suicide bereavement research at Eastern Kentucky University with an emphasis on Posttraumatic Growth. She received her PhD from The Catholic University of America.


Interview with Dr. Michelle Gerken, Therapeutic Recreation

Dr. Michelle Gerken is an Associate Professor of Recreation and Park Administration at EKU.She began her professional career with Lexington Parks and Recreation, serving at-risk youth at the Kenwick Community Center.  She graduated from the University of Kentucky in Recreation and Park Administration with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation. Later she worked for the Wilderness Road Girl Scouts as a Field Executive. She later received a Master’s in Recreation and Park Administration from UK, and upon graduation, she was employed by Asbury University as the Intramural Director and as a Professor in Recreation.

Later, she worked at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center, helping to found the state’s first veterans home in Wilmore, Kentucky. She served up to 300 veterans at a time during her tenure. She worked with veterans from a variety of eras of service, learning about their unique needs and developing programming to improve their quality of life. Dr. Gerken holds a Ph.D. from the University of Louisville in Organizational Leadership and Education Administration. She has started two organizations: KATRA, or the Kentucky Area Therapeutic Recreation Association, and the Madison County Delinquency Council with Dr. Preston Elrod. Her research and service interests include at-risk youth, veterans, and individuals with autism, multiple sclerosis, and spina bifida.  She has been teaching at EKU for 23 years.


Interview with Mr. Mike Hays, Nursing

Mike Hayes is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran who is a registered nurse in the ER at the Lexington, KY Veterans Administration Hospital. He discussed his service in the U.S. Army and how a short “Combat Lifesaver Course” inspired him to pursue a career in the medical field. He provided insights into the return-home experiences of veterans—how veterans must adjust “from an environment where everything is taking place at a 100 mph”  to a life where the things move slower and the consequences are not as severe as those found in combat.

For Mr. Hayes, his career at the Lexington VA Hospital allows him to “keep serving.” He discussed some of his daily job responsibilities and introduced students to the Nursing field’s “Theory of Goal Attainment” developed by Imogene King. This theory is useful to Veterans Studies students who hope to evaluate personal, interpersonal, and social interactions in the lives of individual veterans. Mr. Hayes encourages students to “hit the books and read the stories written by veterans.” More importantly, perhaps, he implores students to seek out veterans themselves by engaging in volunteer work or visiting veterans in VA hospitals located throughout the United States.


Interview with Dr. Brett Morris, Education

Dr. Brett Morris is the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at the University of North Georgia. Dr. Morris is formerly the Executive Director for Enrollment Management at Eastern Kentucky University. At EKU, he was responsible for domestic and international undergraduate recruitment operations, admissions, and financial and transition assistance to prospective students seeking entry to the university. 

Dr. Morris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising from Texas Tech University and a Masters in National Security Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. In 2013, he earned his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from EKU’s College of Education. Dr. Morris is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel who served his final tour on active duty at EKU as the Professor of Military Science and Leadership from 1999-2004. Before his military retirement in 2005 he established and taught the Junior ROTC program at George Rogers Clark High School in Winchester, Kentucky. 

In 2010, he returned to EKU to serve as the Associate Director for Veterans Affairs, launching Operation Veteran Success, establishing Eastern Kentucky University as one of the preeminent providers of educational services to military personnel and veterans. 


Interview with Prof. Peter Berres, Political Science

Peter Berres taught Political Science and honors courses at UK from 1975-2012, and he worked with the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program and a variety of international partners to provide courses on international relations, social movements, cultures, and globalization. Peter has taken student groups to five different countries, and his volunteer work includes Habitat for Humanity projects in places like Vietnam, Thailand, India, Ghana, and Nicaragua. Peter has also served on Human Rights Delegations to Chili, El Salvador, and Turkey.

Professor Berres has published approximately two dozen op-ed pieces with the Louisville Courier Journal and the Lexington Herald Leader. He published a chapter about Agent Orange in Binding Their Wounds: America’s Assault on its Veterans, a book which was co-written by EKU History Professor, Dr. Robert Topmiller. Peter has written about other topics such Nobel Peace Prizes, academic success, and the Iraq War.



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The Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies hosts academic programming for both veteran and non-veteran students. Learn about EKU support services for veterans and other military-affiliated students by visiting the Office of Military & Veterans AffairsDonate to Operation Veteran SuccessDonate to Operation Veteran Success