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Becoming an Advocate for Fellow Veterans

Stories | 02.04.19

Katharine Cobean’s experience as a veteran of the United States Air Force has made her passionate about providing more resources and counseling for veterans. A student in the Master of Arts in Counseling: Rehabilitation Counseling program in Chicago, she hopes to counsel veterans who might have acquired a disability during or after service.

In 2018, Cobean was selected by the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, for the competitive Focus Forward Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to help women student veterans build skills, leadership, and a sense of community with their peers. As part of the fellowship, she participated in a four-day residency program at Purdue University in July and will continue to engage in virtual activities as part of the fellowship throughout the 2018-2019 school year. Cobean shares her experience with the fellowship and her goals to help fellow veterans.

Why is it important for you to help other veterans?
When I first got out of the service, I was dead-set on becoming a biology major and then a physician. But my own experiences in realizing the lack of support that I received when I got home changed that. No one called to ask me, “Do you have shelter? Do you have food? Do you have family to pick you up at the airport when you land?”

It made me realize through my own experience that I had a duty to help other veterans. Veteran suicides are very high and veteran mental health struggles are extremely common. So I used my realization of those things to change to psychology and I saw that Adler University offered a great way to learn how to be an advocate, not only for myself, but for my community. I chose the rehab program so that I am more well-rounded in working with veterans who may have acquired a disability during or after their service. My dream job would be working with veterans through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs or at a nonprofit.

What did being part of the Focus Forward Fellowship mean to you?
The Focus Forward Fellowship gave me the amazing opportunity to connect, learn, and grow personally and professionally with other amazing women veterans from across the country. I was able to build a strong community with these women in the time at Purdue University and continue to do so in an online forum where we inspire and support each other through our academic and professional journeys.

The wonderful part of this fellowship is that each of us has a unique background with different areas of study and goals for our careers, yet we share a special bond of being able to empower each other through relating as women veterans.

For me, after three years of civilian life, it was a life-changing experience, because I hadn’t been around many military people in a long time and that had been such a huge part of my life and culture. I feel like I had lost that a little when I got out and this opportunity allowed me to regain some of that. And even now, it’s a year-long program, so we still connect through activities. We share things we have accomplished and we empower each other and support each other.

How did this experience align with your classes at Adler University?
I think being a Focus Forward Fellow has aligned well with my purpose and goal of pursuing counseling at Adler University, which is to work with veterans. This experience helped me to see that the struggles and uncertainties that I had about the next steps in my life after my military career were shared by so many others within the veteran community. It made me even more passionate about my studies at Adler University and my goal of being an advocate for the needs of service members.

What advice do you have for other students interested in pursuing a fellowship opportunity?
My only advice would be to have faith and confidence in your accomplishments and trust that as an Adler University student you bring a valuable point of view and set of skills to many different fellowship opportunities.

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