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New Scholarship Supports UW Veteran Students

December 4, 2020
woman in camo fatigues
Alicia Bachtel

A remarkable new scholarship is now available for veterans attending the University of Wyoming.

The scholarship was created through a $1 million gift from longtime Wyoming supporters Jim and Jill Anderson. The university matched the Anderson gift with $500,000. The James E. and Jill S. Anderson Veteran Student Scholarship supports both undergraduate and graduate students.

“We are grateful for the generous gift and opportunity that Jim and Jill Anderson have presented to our student veterans,” says Marty Martinez, director of UW’s Marna M. Kuehne Foundation Veterans Services Center and senior project coordinator. “While the scholarship aids undergraduates, it will greatly assist students as they continue pursuing their degrees at graduate levels to ensure they are prepared and competitive in their desired employment industries.”

One of the recipients of the Andersons’ generosity is Alicia Bachtel, who is bringing awareness to the mental health issues that affect military personnel.

Bachtel is used to having difficult conversations. As a woman who served her country for over six years, she says civilians often confront her with inappropriate questions and assumptions regarding her military career. Some respond in disbelief, saying things such as “You were in the service?”

“I think it is important for more people to recognize the contributions women have made in military service,” Bachtel says.

Currently enrolled in UW’s doctoral program in clinical psychology, Bachtel is helping expand what is understood about the military and the mental health of its members.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut, Bachtel went on to earn her master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of Hartford. Before earning her degrees, she served six years as an Arabic linguist for the U.S. Air Force. Bachtel’s decision to pursue psychology came from working alongside service members who struggled with mental health issues, including sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), medical issues and difficulties maintaining work-life balance.

“Mental health in the military is a particularly understudied area,” Bachtel says. “Most trauma research involving the military is usually focused on either combat-related PTSD or sexual assault, but there are so many other stressors that military and veterans encounter that are not being covered.”

Bachtel explains that service members whose mental health has not received as much attention are those who are “deployed-in-place” -- or service members who are not deployed overseas.

“These service members still go home at the end of their day and have to manage everyday domestic events. My research interest lies in understanding the toll situations like these have on service members,” she says.

Military personnel face an array of obstacles that are imperceptible to civilians. These invisible issues lead to misconceptions and discrimination that service members struggle to surmount as veterans. Although the stigmatization of mental health affects the general public’s well-being, it is even more so the case for those who have served our country.

“If a veteran has a diagnosis of PTSD or alcohol use disorder or they are homeless, they are seen as ‘broken,’ ‘not worthy’ and so on,” Bachtel says. “These are people who risked everything serving their country and should be shown kindness and compassion. Something happened to them, and they are suffering. We, as a society, need to do better.”

Bachtel hopes her research will help the country and, specifically, the Department of Defense, find ways to better safeguard the mental health of active military members and veterans. Today, military personnel are facing higher rates of suicide, depression, chronic pain and PTSD. However, there is hope as veterans such as Bachtel use their military experience in conjunction with their education to solve the complex issues that affect service members.

The James E. and Jill S. Anderson Veteran Student Scholarship is helping UW veteran students pursue and carry out their academic missions. Veteran students such as Bachtel are using their scholarship funds to make a real difference.

“As nontraditional students, veterans often face many life challenges while working through the rigors of their college experience, such as part-time or full-time employment, families, car and house and insurance payments, and much more,” Martinez says. “The Anderson scholarship will provide financial relief and assistance as these warrior scholars meet the challenges life and academia can present. I cannot express enough my gratitude to Jim and Jill Anderson for this effective and wonderful way to remind our student veterans that their service and sacrifice are appreciated and remembered.”

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