Spring 2021 Military Connected Conference
Friday March 5th, 2021
Sessions hosted from 8:30-12:30
There is a growing gap between our military and civilian communities. This disconnect can lead to misunderstanding. The goal of this conference is to bridge the gap and seek opportunities to better understand the diversity of experience within our military connected student community.
Keynote Speakers Tab Open
Schedule Tab Closed
Presenter Bios Tab Closed
Session Summaries Tab Closed
Keynote Speakers Accordion Open
Vice Admiral Robin Braun
Robin served 37 years in the U. S. Navy, retiring in 2016 at the rank of Vice Admiral. In her final assignment, she served as the 13th Chief of the Navy Reserve, leading more than 60,000 men and women supporting military operations around the world. Designated a Naval Aviator in 1981, she flew over 5,800 flight hours in various Naval aircraft during her career and remains the highest ranking woman aviator to serve in the U.S. Navy. Most recently, Robin served as a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS), a federal advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Defense to provide recommendations on policies regarding women in the Armed Forces. An NAU graduate, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 2012 and the Cliff Harkins Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award in 2015.
Maj. General Earl Matthews
Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews was the Director, Cyberspace Operations, Office of Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington D.C. General Matthews was the Cyberspace Operations and Support Career Field Functional Manager, responsible for the development of 77,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel, meeting current and projected operational requirements. He oversaw the Air Force information assurance program to ensure compliance with all legislative, Department of Defense and joint information assurance policies and directives. Additionally, he led the Air Force in developing cyberspace operations policy, providing Information Technology and National Security System solutions. General Matthews received his commission in 1983 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Northern Arizona University
Schedule Accordion Closed
8:15 to 8:30 AM
8:30 to 8:40 AM
8:40 to 8:55 AM
8:55 to 9:05 AM
Welcome, Goals of the day and Session Options
Insight from Vice Admiral Robin Braun US Navy, Ret. and NAU Alumna
Insight from Major General Earl Matthews, US Air Force, Ret. And NAU Alumnus
9:10 to 10:00 AM Session I
Classical Literature & the Veteran Journey
Veteran Success Center Overview
Veterans in the Classroom
10:20 to 11:10 AM Session II
Military Culture beconnectedaz.org
Panel Discussion – Military Dependents
Veterans in the Classroom
11:30 to 12:20 PM Session III
Military Culture beconnectedaz.org
Veteran Success Center Overview
Military Culture In our Indigenous Communities
12:20 PM to 12:30 PM Wrap Up and Networking
Presenter Bios Accordion Closed
Shynowah Bahe served in the Air Force from 1999 to 2011. She is Diné from Wood Springs, Arizona. She is currently taking prerequisites at NAU to apply for graduate school. She currently works with Military and Veteran Services as an Academic Program Coordinator, Intermediate.
Armando Escalante served in the Navy for 14 years and worked on the flight deck on aircraft carriers. I operated and maintained the catapult systems, which launched the aircraft. I grew up on the Navajo reservation during my childhood years and on the Quechan reservation later in my teenage years. I am currently in my last semester for a Master’s in Social Work (MSW). Upon receiving my degree, I eventually want to work in the VA to work with veterans, as I am passionate to work with my fellow veterans.
Laurie Jordon is the NAU Veteran Success Center’s Assistant Director supporting military-connected students as they transition from military life to higher education to a professional civilian career. Laurie served in the USAF in the field of Public Health. She obtained her BA degrees from FLC, in Business and Psychology, her Post Baccalaureate from CU Boulder in Speech and Hearing Sciences, and her graduate degree from NAU in Education Leadership. Laurie is committed to improving upon and implementing new student success initiatives each term based not only on national best practices and campus partnerships but also on individual student needs.
Zach Hamilton is a Coordinator in the Department of Veteran and Military services, and an NAU Alumnus. He began working in the Department of Veteran and Military Services in 2014 as a student worker. After graduating with a BS in Political Science, Zach served as a Student Service Coordinator before ultimately moving into the position of Coordinator in Veteran and Military Services. Prior to arriving at NAU, Zach served in the United States Marine Corps as an Infantry Rifleman, in the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment.
David Harmon served in the Marines for 11 years he deployed twice to Iraq during his career. He is in his second semester in the Master of Social Work program. David is from Chinle, Az (located on the Navajo Reservation) and he is Navajo, Tewa, and White. He serves as the Indigenous Liaison for the student-Veteran population and is a liaison for the VA (CBOC). David wants to be a voice for the Veteran population and an advocate for the Indigenous Veteran population, respectively.
Melinda McCullin’s husband of 24 years is a Retired Disabled Marine Veteran. Melinda spent 22 years supporting him through his military career, including five combat deployments. She is utilizing Chapter 35 benefits and currently a senior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. This is her first semester as a Work Study for the VSC at the Yuma campus. Currently she is living in Yuma, AZ by way of multiple different duty stations, but I was born in Minnesota. Melinda is passionate about helping Veteran’s and other dependents maneuver through utilizing their VA benefits any way that she can and to share her knowledge in order to help maximize and stretch those benefits, while also advocating for more ways the school can help veterans and dependents in their higher education endeavors
Kama O’Connor was a military spouse for eight years. During that time, she volunteered for LINKS, TAPS, and her husband’s commands in a variety of roles. Many of these included transition and career readiness for Marines, sailors, and their families. She was also a columnist for Military Spouse Magazine for two years, where she contributed dozens of articles on the military family experience, higher education pursuits while in the military, and educational resources for families. Currently, she is an English instructor in the NAU Honors College and at Coconino Community College, where she teaches a veteran-only composition course. Additionally, she is the NAU Veteran and Military Services Writing Professional. She is also a member of Military Experience in the Arts and the U.S. Veterans Artists Alliance, of which she is a mentor for aspiring veteran screenwriters and novelists
Alisa Penny is an undergraduate student majoring in business marketing with a minor in advertising. She is a military dependent dependent, and her dad is currently serving in the Air Force. She grew up in the military environment and is very excited to share my experiences.
Dee Person is the Be Connected Community Coordinator for Central and Southern Arizona. As coordinator, Dee leads partnership initiatives focused on connecting service members, veterans, and their family members with various resources. Dee is a Navy Veteran and served aboard multiple ships as a Surface Warfare Officer in Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Dee and her husband, a Marine veteran, are the proud parents of 3 children and live in the Phoenix, AZ
Dr. Steven Smith earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Grand Canyon College; Master of Divinity from Southwestern Theological Seminary; Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University, and doctorate from the University of San Diego. He also received a diploma from Marine Corps University, Command and Staff College. He severed twenty-two years in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. After military service he was an Assistant Professor and then later Executive Director/Dean at Wayland Baptist University. In 2016 he began working at NAU with Veteran and Military Services to develop the First Year Seminar program for incoming Veterans and the Veterans Oral History Project in conjunction with Cline Library Special Collections and Archives. He has also taught in the Honors College and College of Arts and Letters. He has been a contributor to various military and academic publications.
Cecilia “Ceci” Torres, Academic Program Coordinator-Intermediate, has served in this capacity since October 2018. She brings a wealth of student affairs experience to our team after serving at Arizona Western College in both the Registrar/Admissions and Career Services areas and NAU Yuma as an Academic Advisor, Sr. She has been in student services since 1989. While a civilian, her husband and step-son have served in the U.S. Army.
Brandon Whiterock talks to high school students about his own interpretation of believing in oneself and has a message about his own past life experiences that high school students should hear before they graduate. His mother, Lori Ann Piestewa, was the first female soldier to die in Operation Iraqi Freedom. She was killed March 23, 2003, when Brandon was a little boy. She left behind two children Brandon and Carla Piestewa. Her name is well known. Piestewa Peak in the metro Phoenix area was named after her. There are the Lori Piestewa Native American Games. The Piestewa family was also featured in the television show, “Extreme Home Makeover.” He realized his mother’s story helps others heal, which uplifts him and shows him how many people his mother’s life impacted. “I want to give back to the veterans, and my ultimate goal is to work for the VA (Veterans Affairs),” he said, adding that he was a student at Coconino Community College who transferred to Northern Arizona University to receive a bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy.
Session Summaries Accordion Closed
Classical Literature and the Veteran Journey
Zach Hamilton will be hosting a discussion on classic literature and its influence on military culture. We will also look at the way military archetypes in classic literature shape popular depictions of the military, and our own pre-conceptions of veterans.
The NAU Veteran Success Center – An Overview of Support Services
This session is designed to share the wide range of resources available to our students and the background of why they were developed. Come and discuss the resources available to our students and YOU as we serve our military connected student community!
Veterans in the Classroom
This session will explore the unique challenges veteran students face as they transition from military service to a civilian and academic environment. We will discuss as a group the diversity of the veteran student experience, what perceived difficulties the veteran student poses inside our classrooms, and how to reframe our perspectives so we can engage with our veteran students in a way that benefits our teaching, our other students, and the veteran student themselves. Join us for an engaging, interactive session that will leave you excited for the possibilities of working with our NAU veteran students.
Military Culture – Be Connected AZ
Our military-connected students have a wide range of diversity within the military-connected community. But there are consistent values and experiences that our students identify with, such as a commitment to putting service before self. Please join us for a workshop that explores the military culture and works to achieve a better understanding of the nuances of our community. The goal is to more effectively assist the entire military-connected family
Panel Discussion – Our Dependent Students
Join us for an interactive student panel discussion that focuses on the unique experiences that the spouses and children within military connected communities. Hear directly from the students regarding the unique challenges they face while pursuing their educational goals.
Panel Discussion – Military Culture within our Indigenous communities
Our Indigenous communities have played vital roles within the US military for over 200 years. With the highest per capita involvement within the US military, our Indigenous communities and students have a strong connection to the military and bring a unique perspective to the commitment of serving. Hear directly from the students and staff who are a part of our Indigenous and military connected communities.