Chancellor, The California State UniversityCSU Veterans Affairs Professional Development ConferenceLong Beach, CaliforniaJune 27, 2019
Thank you, Sheila…and good morning. It is an honor to welcome all of you to Long Beach. For those of you who have never visited the Chancellor 's Office, we 're in the Dumke Auditorium, named after Cal State 's second chancellor, Glenn S. Dumke.
This is where the CSU Board of Trustees meetings are held six times each year. There 's debate and public comment – sometimes heated – around important issues. Critical decisions are made. I 've witnessed a lot in this room during my six and a half years as chancellor.
I don 't see many standing ovations.
Of course, there 's good reason for that. These chairs – especially the ones in the horseshoe down front – are extremely comfortable. During those long, two-day board meetings, a certain inertia tends to set in. And many of us are getting a bit older and our joints ache a little. Our knees aren 't what they once were.
What I 'm saying is that it takes something to bring us to our feet.
Last fall, Matt Aldrete brought us all to our feet.
A U.S. Army combat veteran and Humboldt State student, Matt shared his story with the Board and all those assembled here that day. He spoke of experiencing his initial bout of PTSD as he walked Humboldt 's campus on his very first day of classes. A test of a campus emergency siren sent his heartrate skyrocketing. He instinctively assumed a crouch and reached for a weapon that wasn 't there. The next thing he remembers is standing in the middle of a street, sweat pouring off his body, wondering, "What the hell just happened?!" He was terrified.
Matt came to the conclusion that if he were to run away from the situation, he would be running the rest of his life… so he went to class, still sweating and looking as if he 'd seen a ghost. And not long after that, he went to Humboldt 's Veterans Resource Center. The VRC and its longtime director Kim Hall played a critical role in Matt 's transition to civilian and academic life.
Matt received counseling and administrative support. He participated in Humboldt 's innovative Vets Outdoor Program. And he found a space to connect with other student veterans.
Matt says he eventually gained a new outlook on life. He earned his degree and is now taking prep courses toward a graduate program in computer science. He also coordinates Humboldt 's Veterans Transition Program, giving hope and support to other student veterans who are facing the same personal and academic struggles Matt faced just five years ago. Kim Hall remains a trusted mentor.
I 'm pleased to report that both Matt and Kim are in attendance today. Matt, thank you for your service. And thank you both for making a difference in the lives of so many military-affiliated students at Humboldt State.
Matt 's story is one of sacrifice… and courage. Pain… and resilience. And ultimately… one of hope… and triumph. I share it with you today, not only because I am reminded of the emotional ovation it inspired in this room, but also because, in so many ways, Matt 's story is your story.
You are there for our student veterans from the day they enroll until the day they graduate – and in many cases, far beyond that. You help ensure that they access and maximize their GI Bill benefits, which are so hard-earned and well-deserved. You advise them on course selection. You give student veterans a safe space to connect with and support one another.
Several CSU Veterans Services Offices have designed innovative programs to educate faculty and staff about the challenges faced by our military-affiliated students – helping to create campus-wide networks of support. Northridge 's "Joining Forces," San Diego State 's "Military Ally," and the Long Beach-developed "VET NET Ally" are three such exemplary programs that have been presented or duplicated across the state and across the country.
Perhaps most critically, you connect our student veterans with on- and off-campus mental health services – this at a time when, according to one recent VA study, our nation loses an average of 20 veterans each day to suicide.
Because of your skilled and dedicated work, Cal State 's student veterans are not only successfully transitioning into academic life, they are thriving on our campuses… discovering their interests and passions, contributing their knowledge and skills, achieving their goals, and getting every ounce out of what should be the experience of a lifetime.
In a word, your work matters. It matters to the 7,500 CSU student veterans and service members – and to our 13,500 additional military-affiliated students. It matters to their families, their communities and the state of California.
I assure you… it matters to me.
I 'll close with this quotation from Abraham Lincoln, the source of so much wisdom and inspiration:
Honor to the soldier and sailor everywhere, who bravely bears his country 's cause. Honor, also, to the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves, as best he can, the same cause.
Thank you for attending this important event and for everything you do for the California State University.
Marshall, I turn the program over to you…