Veteran Discovers a Passion for Helping Other Veterans Transition from Service to Academic World
Chad Simpson leaves the University at Albany a more welcoming place for students who are veterans as he graduates with the Class of 2014. (Photo by Mark Schmidt)
ALBANY, N.Y. (May 12, 2014) -- Chad Simpson, 25, has spent his four years at the University at Albany making the campus a more welcoming place for veterans like himself. As president of UAlbany Veterans, the LaFargeville, N.Y.- native understands the transition from military service to university life.
“The military is a very different world compared to a university,” he said. “I was in active duty in the Army between the ages of 17 and 21, so I came into my own as a soldier. I left to get an education but did not realize the unique struggles I would face.”
Starting college at age 21, Simpson didn’t feel he fit in with traditional students. He had served in active duty from 2006-2010, stationed mainly out of Fort Richardson, near Anchorage, Alaska. He felt different, more mature than the average 18-year-old freshman. Then for two years he served in the Army reserves in a local unit.
He considered dropping out of college on several occasions. One day he spotted a poster for a meeting of the campus veterans’ organization. He decided to check out the meeting. “I was able to connect with like-minded individuals and they provided the support I needed,” he said.
When UAlbany Veterans first opened up its lounge, he had a place to go in between classes, too. As part of this group, Simpson discovered his passion for helping people. Today, there are 90 registered members.
“Here at the University I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of veterans. I like to think that in some way I have made their transition smoother and easier than mine,” he said. The history and political science major also processes benefits for veterans as a work-study student in the Financial Aid office.
Simpson has been the recipient of the President’s Award for Leadership – Veteran/Military Leadership, and the Purple and Gold Award for emerging student leaders. He is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, political science honor society, and Phi Alpha Theta, history honor society.
UAlbany is a unique school in Simpson’s estimate. “I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from a very intelligent and dedicated faculty. I feel the facilities provided and the learning environment as a whole are of the highest quality.”
Today he is graduating debt-free, something for which he is most appreciative. And he has enjoyed his time at UAlbany. “I can honestly say that I think UAlbany is a great institution that offers a lot of unique programs, clubs, activities, and experiences,” said Simpson.
On commencement day, Simpson and his girlfriend Meredith Fritch of Saratoga, also a member of the 2014 graduating class, will be surrounded by family and friends as they celebrate.
An avid hiker, he has spent other summers hiking several hundred mile stretches of the Appalachian Trail. One day he plans to hike it end to end.
Simpson is looking for immediate employment as he considers whether to go to grad school or pursue a long-term goal of finding a job in which he can combine a passion for helping others with his love of adventure and travel.