Inspiring Networking Event For Student Veterans

Written by: Sanjevni Prasad

Scott Shirley, the newly elected officer of the University of Washington Bothell chapter of Student Veterans Association (S.V.A.), earned the opportunity to fly to D.C. for the 2019 S.V.A. Leadership Institute. Shirely is incredibly passionate about veteran services as well as helping student veterans in general. Attending the week long leadership event helped him self reflect, refine his core values, and identify what makes a great leader. 

Student veterans interested in attending this event have to fill out two parts for the application: part one asks for basic information: your resume and short answer responses such as how do you contribute to your S.V.A. chapter? While part two is a 60 second video where you can present your authentic, unedited, unfiltered self and post it on your LinkedIn with #SVALeads.

The S.V.A. officer was genuinely baffled that he was able to go to D.C. He doubted himself while he was filling out the application. The leadership institute actually addressed this psychological pattern of uncertainty in one’s competence and achieving success, also known as imposter syndrome. Shirley described this part of the curriculum as a light bulb moment since he realized he was exhibiting every sign listed by the presenter. Though Shirley was experiencing imposter syndrome, he completed the application and earned a spot, revealing that fighting against self doubt and uncertainty has amazing rewards. 

The Leadership Institute had a six part curriculum in which mentors, veterans, and guest speakers worked with attendees on self improvement. Their idea was: improve self in order to improve their SVA chapter, student body, and nation. Not only were there conferences, the attending S.V.A. students were split up into groups of four each with two mentors to work on the curriculum. Shirley labeled this structure as military-esque since everything in the military is done in groups. Following the military pattern or not, the group work helped Shirley refine and understand his identified core values.

“In the Navy, the three core values are honor, courage and commitment, but I feel like integrity kinda sums out all three of those.”

Shirley shared his personal core value is family; he revealed that the values from the Navy combined with his personal core value. Thus, by working in groups filled with peers and mentors, Shirley learned how to better explain his values to others as well as critically analyzing his experiences to understand the good and the bad. 

For Shirley, self reflection and refining his core values were incredibly important for his personal development as a leader. However, the most impactful aspect of the D.C. getaway was networking. 108 students managed to attend the week-long event. These student veterans came from 78 different schools all with different academic backgrounds and personal experiences. Shirely used this opportunity to ask his cohorts for advice on how to improve his chapter. The S.V.A. officer had some ideas in his head before the trip to D.C. and when Shirley returned, he had clear goals for he wanted the U.W.B. S.V.A. chapter to achieve.

He hopes to establish the S.V.A. presence on campus as a networking source. It is important to Shirely for students to see the U.W.B. chapter as a separate division of the Veterans Resource Center (V.R.C.) because anyone can visit the S.V.A. while the V.R.C.’s primary focus is student veterans. In Shirley’s eyes, student veterans are nontraditional students that have compiled a great deal of experience throughout their life and service. Therefore, he would like to share his knowledge with the rest of the student body. 

The Leadership Institute revealed that a mentor, someone that has experienced a similar situation, can help connect the dots when it comes to solving problems. Mentorship worked for Shirley, he knew his core values and by speaking to mentors at the institute he was able to refine them.

“Basically it helped me identify why I act certain ways in certain situations and it’s based on my core values. Values drive your decisions. Also, understanding, that helps you be a better leader. Leadership is understanding why people do what they do.”

A personal goal for Shirley is to be able to ask any student on campus if they know a student veteran and hear a positive reaction such as “that person is cool”. Also, the newly elected officer is excited about the new opportunities for his chapter at a national level. Speaking of which, he just applied for a fellowship in D.C for next year. 

Overall, Shirley “hopes that through the S.V.A.’s actions, presence on campus, and sharing stories, each student veteran can inspire the rest of the student body to succeed. Student veterans possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that we are eager to share.” 

Please stop by UW1 (011) to grab some coffee and chat with Shirley along with the other student veterans. 

A little bit about Shirley. He was in the Navy for five years.  Spent two years in Florida working in labor and delivery where he helped deliver 163-168 babies and assisted with 59 C-section operations. Then, he was sent to North Carolina where he worked in a clinic for the Marine Corp for two and a half years.

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