Kate Young: Hi, I'm Kate Young, and you're listening to This is Purdue, the official podcast for Purdue University. As a Purdue alum and Indiana native, I know firsthand about the family of students and professors who are in it together, persistently pursuing and relentlessly rethinking. Who are the next game changers, difference makers, ceiling breakers, innovators, who are these Boilermakers? Join me as we feature students, faculty and alumni taking small steps toward their giant leaps, and inspiring others to do the same.
Theresa Carter: I think to me, the Boilermaker spirit means never giving up. You view something that maybe didn't go exactly like you hoped or you wanted, not as a failure, but it's an opportunity to learn and try again.
Kate Young: (singing). This is Purdue is proud to celebrate and honor three Purdue veterans this Veterans Day. Each of these three veterans are different, their journeys at Purdue were different. And they served in different branches of the military. But when it comes to their connection to Purdue, and that Boilermaker spirit, that persistence, they are all quite similar. Let's start with Jamie Richards, a US Navy veteran, and the director of Purdue Veterans Success Center. Jamie explains more about the VSC and how it was founded.
Jamie Richards: The Veterans Success Center is located in the Purdue Memorial Union, we're on the second floor, pretty near the Hall of flags just down from there. And we provide services and support for all of our military connected students, which includes not only veterans which one would think, but also military students, those that are active duty, the reserve or National Guard. And also military, rather family members that are using some form of benefit, where's the GI bill or other state benefits also. We have about 1300 students that fall within that military connected population. And we're really here to support them as best as we can. So it came from the student voice. In the mid 2000s, a student veteran organization was started, it was during really the height of Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of students were coming back. And they felt a little bit out of place on campus being a very traditional aged institution with very traditional experiences coming right out of high school to college. So the students really kind of felt like they were pretty much out of place. And so, they also we're having some hiccups using their benefits, accessing their benefits, and maybe some hiccups not necessarily related to being on campus and not necessarily related to the service of accessing the benefits here, but just trying to figure out how to use them, as well as some hiccups with the policies and procedures that are in place. So they petitioned the Provost office and said, we really could use some extra support on campus. And the Provost office listened, and really created the position that I'm in, which then turned into opening the center on campus as part of that as well.
Kate Young: Part of the center includes the Purdue Student Veterans Organization, which serves as a source of knowledge, support, representation and camaraderie, to any and all students with a military affiliation, as well as their immediate family members. Jamie discusses how this organization came to be.
Jamie Richards: They started in the mid 2000s. And we're really kind of in response to we need to make the campus a better place. And when they became an official organization, that was some of the first things they did. Was they were requesting to have a position in place, they were petitioning for space on campus to provide some support for them. Because at the time, they were in the ground floor of the Stewart Center behind two sets of locked doors. So new students could ever find them even where they existed. And so that was a couple of the first things they also looked at red, white and blue graduation cords for military connected that they were able to petition for. And there's a military absence policy for those that are in the reserve and active duty to allow them to have the two weeks off without it punitively affecting their coursework. Initially, that's what they were really focused on. But they have since also moved into providing a lot of camaraderie for students. So they welcome any military connected student into their organization and really provide an opportunity to meet like people, whether it's family members. Their family might still be serving or have served and have that unique experience. Whether it's still people that are still serving in the military or veterans also, they have, they're able to welcome them in. Provide the camaraderie, they also provide an opportunity to provide community service. So they go out and host events in the community or help support events or raise money for the homeless in our community here in the Lafayette area, particularly for the homeless veterans that are in the area as well. And social activities, so they try to do a lot of fun stuff as well. Occasionally, go bowling or occasionally, we've done some canoe trips as well with them. I think one of the important things too is the leadership that's available with the Student Veteran Organization. They are a member or a chapter member of the Student Veterans of America and through the SVA, they're given the opportunity to attend not only a national conference every year, and meet a variety of student veterans from across the United States, but also they offer a lot of leadership opportunities through SVA. So they may go to a Leadership Summit in Chicago or one in DC. Just a couple years ago, the former president of our Student Veterans Organization, she was able to go and represent at a congressional hearing as part of the Student Veterans of America. So, it's a really cool chance for them to explore the world a little bit beyond Purdue's campus and connect as well. And they're housed, their leadership is housed in our office, we co- share the space with them. And any of our military connected students have access to that space.
Kate Young: I want to tell you a bit about Jamie's background. He is a Purdue alumnus, but he wasn't an ordinary everyday student. You see, Jamie decided to go to college at age 30.
Jamie Richards: When I graduated from Purdue, I was a non traditional student as well. I'd served in the military and came here as a 30 year old. And in 2005 when I graduated, I accepted a position over at Ivy Tech Community College and worked there for a couple years in Lafayette and worked there for a couple years. And then I deployed to Iraq in 2008. In 2009, I was still in the Reserves at the time. When I came back, I accepted their position there as the Veterans Coordinator. And so I did that for a couple years. And it was about the same time that the students had petitioned the Provost office that I was looking for what's the next step in my career. And this position came open, was created in 2012, opened up and I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to lead the program here.
Kate Young: Yeah. And I'm sure the students that you work with and the families appreciate that you have this military background. So can you explain a little bit, you were part of the Navy, what made you want to go into the Navy and have that military experience?
Jamie Richards: When I was a kid, if you would have asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would have said either an Egyptologist, play guitar in a band or join the Navy. And I didn't study hard enough to be an Egyptologist and I didn't practice enough to be a guitar player. So I kind of defaulted to the Navy. I watched a lot of old movies as a kid too. I romanticized a lot of the World War II movies when they would show especially around the Navy. And then I had a stepfather that had served in the Navy during Vietnam. And he told me a lot of stories about his experiences and his travels. And in high school, I had a history teacher that had served the Navy in World War II. And he also really brought history to life with his actual experiences that he had. So he could talk about places that he'd been as they related to the actual historical events happening, especially with World War II. And so I had these visions of what the Navy meant. And so, the day that I turned 18, I signed up between my junior and senior year what's called a Delayed Entry Program. And then the day I turned 18, was the day that I had my head shaved for basic training.
Kate Young: Talk a little bit about the process of going back to school at 30. That's not easy. I mean, what made you want to come to Purdue?
Jamie Richards: So, I'd gotten out of Navy and I ticked around doing some mostly desktop publishing work and some production work for a consulting company, and enjoyed that. But I found myself living in Lafayette, I had just turned 30 years old and kind of had that reflective moment in life of like, this isn't just where I wanted to be when I thought it would be when I was at 30, I really need to probably program my life differently. I figured out what would work. And I saw that Purdue had a job fair, I kind of thought, well, maybe college is something I should be thinking about then. I saw that Purdue had a job fair and one of the benefits as a Purdue employee were remission of fees. And I thought, well, maybe this is the way that I can do that. So, I got hired to work at Purdue, I worked third shift of one of the residence halls and went to school full- time. The day that I got hired I went over and signed up for my first classes, and went to school eventually full- time during the day and worked full- time at night. And just was like, this is my path, this is a door opener for you know what's next in my future.
Kate Young: Jamie points out that there are other Purdue students who are in similar situations. And that's why the Veterans Success Center is so important.
Jamie Richards: When a student transitions here, one of the things that we're looking at is providing an orientation outside of the framework of BGR. BGR does a great job of providing the orientation for students coming out of high school. But for 30 year olds that might not be the best way for them to be welcome to campus. So one of the things we do in the orientation process is we help students connect with the campus and let them know that they're actually part of the fabric of this campus. So we talk about the land inaudible part of the original mission was to develop an officer corps for the military. And then we go around to places on campus and show them these military connections. Naturally, Neil Armstrong served in the military, Gus Grissom served in the military, buildings named after them. Helen Schliemann served in the military, Felix Hos served in the military, John Hicks for the Hicks Undergrad Library, the class of 50, the connection to the military. So the students have a sense that they are actually part of the fabric here. And then as it continues on we certainly have the student veteran organization that provides that camaraderie and support while they are here and actually be able to connect with like minded students, we really want to help develop those connections with employers and potential employers. So we engage with them to provide networking opportunities to talk, come to campus and provide information sessions about their company and how their company works with veterans. We work with the CCO and help develop our military connected students ability to think about their career search, not only to translate their military skills into a resume that actually makes sense to somebody that's never served in the military. But if you're in the military, you knew what you were going to wear every day and you just didn't have to worry about that. And that job interview maybe the first time that you've ever written a resume, you've written a cover letter, maybe the first time you've ever interviewed with somebody, and might be the first time you've ever put a suit and tie on potentially too, or a nice pair of slacks as well. So these are things that might be new. And so we want to help develop that skill set. So, our students feel comfortable when they have that opportunity to meet with an employer. And so, we really want to help try to bolster that support also.
Kate Young: What would you say to people that don't have that experience like how to be a friend to someone in the military or mentor? Any advice on that after all the things that they've been through while being in the military?
Jamie Richards: Two of the lessons that are really ingrained in me from my military experience and I see it quite a bit with other military connected students, what is the mission and who is your team? And so I think if you are trying to develop a friendship or connection or support network for someone that's in the military, or has a veteran that has served in the military, is understand what that student's mission is. To be able to whether it's to earn this degree, to find this job, whatever that specific mission is for that student, to be able to understand that that's the mission that they are on, and then connect as a teammate with them to be able to help support that. In the military, the teams are very important. I mean, you have to in some instances legitimately life or death decisions are made by people around you to either protect you or to make sure that machinery is operating, or the decisions that they're being made can impact you at a much higher level than they might be here with a group project on campus. And so, understanding that trust is really important and that team relationship with someone that served in the military. So if you make a commitment to help somebody and you maybe forget about it, or you get busy and you don't call them and let them know, that's something that might be really impactful on that military connected student, veteran family member, whatever the case is, because they feel like this person can't be part of my team. And so, really connecting to their mission, being part of their team and building that trust I think are really important however you happen to connect with a veteran or military connected person.
Kate Young: What was it like for you, we talked about you came to Purdue at 30. And obviously, VGR is not probably the right way to show you the ropes of Purdue at that point. But what was it like immersing yourself back into this real world after you had served in the Navy?
Jamie Richards: It was challenging. But I think what was really helpful for me is I have, I think a lot of people just have an innate curiosity as well. And I kind of carried that to campus. Plus, as an older student that had earned my benefit I understood that this was an opportunity that I gave myself. And because of that I approached it very seriously. I was not a good student in high school. And during my time in the Navy, I learned not necessarily to be a good student, but I learned how to apply myself which I didn't do in high school. So I think that that served me really well as a student, a veteran student here at Purdue as I learned how to apply myself and worked really hard. I also wanted to not always, I didn't want to be the person that lead projects or lead in the class or any of that. But I wanted to support people that were younger than me that were trying to learn that experience. I wanted to be there to support them, because I had had some of that experience. And so, I was really good number two to the class people. So if they wanted to learn from something I was able to be there to help them grow and learn as well. And provide that example, not only as an example of a leader, but from my perspective, to be the example of what it means to be a good follower, because that's part of being on a team as well. And so, I really assumed that role in the classroom. I wanted to be a good follower. But I also wanted to answer questions because I wanted to make all these connections with things that I had actually seen in life and learned in life and make all these connections. So it was hard. But it was a really good experience for me, and I'm super happy to have it part of my growth. I couldn't have done it as an 18, 19 or 20 year old, I wouldn't have survived at Purdue. But as a 30 year old up to my mid 30s, I did really well.
Kate Young: The Veterans Success Center at Purdue has a number of projects happening. Jamie highlights three long term goals for the VSC.
Jamie Richards: I work off whiteboards all the time so I'm always taking notes and writing things down. I have three things that have transitioned, we're in the process of growing our space a little bit and we're going to be doing some renovation and hiring staff. And so my whiteboards moved offices a couple times. But these three always pop on the whiteboard. In the Great Hall of the Purdue Memorial Union, there's plaques that memorialize those who have lost their life in conflicts. And we have quite a bit of information for World War I, World War II and the Vietnam era plaque, but I wouldn't really round out the Korean War and the other conflicts as well, documenting them and then working to digitize that information. So people can read about it, can research it, and can use it beyond just looking at a plaque inside the union. We also had Dorothy Stratton, who was the first dean of women here on campus. During World War II, she became the first Coast Guard SPAR, which is the women's program that the Coast Guard had during World War II and she was the first director of that new program when it started during World War II. She actually came back to Purdue and then when she retired they Coast Guard named a cutter after her after the Strat, US CGS Stratton. And I would like to have a replica made of that Coast Guard cutter and then kind of have some interpretive texts that goes with it the talks about Dorothy's contribution, not only to Purdue but also to the Coast Guard. And then finally is during World War II, Frederick Branch was a reserve Marine Corps person that came through what was called the V- 12 program which helped develop officers quickly and get them out into the fleet to be able to fight the war. And he was the first African American reserve Marine Corps officer and he was commissioned while here at Purdue. And I would like to develop also some interpretive information and display, talking about the significance of that event as well. And so those are really the three that are long term want to make happen, trying to get done, taking little bites at a time goals that I have.
Kate Young: Another interesting thing I learned from my time with Jamie, only around 7% of people in the United States have served in the military. He points out why this number is vital when it comes to understanding the military connected population, and explains more about the Green Zone training program.
Jamie Richards: Green Zone training is really designed to help the campus the faculty and staff on campus understand a little bit more about the military connected population. There's about 7% of the people in the United States have actually served in the military. And that includes people that served in World War II and then Korean War and Vietnam era and any other time they served in the military. And less than 1% that have actually served in current conflicts. And so, that really limits the experience that faculty and staff on campus or students on campus may have with what it means to actually serve in the military. And they may have perceptions that are based upon movies are what they hear in the news, which aren't always an accurate representation of what the services for the normal average person in the military. The Green Zone Awareness Training is really to help kind of understand to begin with what it means to serve and what some of those commonalities are. It looks at like everybody has to go through some type of basic training or boot camp. It talks about what that experience is intended to do and how different branches do it differently. And then it talks about the schooling and we discussed what that looks like in the military and how people make move in their career or progress in their career. We look at the demographics of our students that we have on campus, and kind of discuss those and get an understanding of maybe what are the primary colleges that a student may attend or schools that they may attend. And so we have an understanding of where those populations are. We also look at the transition from the military to higher education. Many people that serve in the military are first generation students, so they don't have that experience to lean into with their family members of what it means. They also may be aligned with non traditional or adult learners student that might fall underneath the spam plan program on campus. They might have a job, they might have a family, they're an older student, there's a lot of different cross sexualities that might make that transition to higher education a little bit more difficult. And then imagine being an older student, like myself a 30 year old in a classroom with 18 year olds and you just feel out of place naturally because of that. So we talked about what that transition looks like. And then we ran it out really with a discussion of the benefits that the students who used to go to college. About 80% of the people that join the military join to gain access to education benefits so that they can further their education after they get out of military or maybe while they're still in the military. So we look at those benefits. We talk about some of the decisions that students have to make in order to make their benefits work, which provides some examples that an academic advisor may be able to use as well when they're thinking about working with a military connected student. And then we finish up with services and programming that we provide out of our office, many of them student led services and programming. But how we kind of help through that process of the student first starting to come here to when they transition away from here.
Kate Young: Speaking of education benefits, Purdue alumna Ryan Locky, Deputy Joint Operations Center officer in charge for the Indiana National Guard, discusses why she called contracted into Purdue ROTC, or Reserve Officer Training Corps. A program to prepare college students for military careers.
Ryann Laky: My uncle, he went to ROTC at Southern Methodist in Texas. And he suggested that I do it I'm like no, not for me. But when I got here, the big driving factor for me enlisting was really I just wanted to make it more affordable. So, in Indiana, because I'm out of state in Indiana, if I joined the Indiana Guard, what they do is not only do they give me in person tuition, they also cover that tuition in full. So I'm like, okay, I could sign away I guess, six years of my life and get free tuition. And main goal in my head at this point is all right, I just want to pay for school and this is a perfect way to do it. But then I found out as I joined, and as time went on, I was like, oh, wow, I really like this. I was like, this is a sweet gig. I mean, the benefits are really great. But on top of that, the professional development and time management skills I've developed have been insane. I've kind of been forced into it. And realistically, the Purdue ROTC program has a reputation that extends well beyond Indiana. I would argue probably worldwide. I've heard from officers across the United States military, not just Army, but all of the branches that they've seen some of the best officers come out of Purdue. That's really what pushed me to join that and the battalion that we have at Purdue is centrally located. So there are a lot of other like satellite locations for other ROTC programs. Where they have to drive 45 minutes to attend a class or do a training, but nope, it's all right there. It's a big program, great officers come from it. And I really like that I think.
Kate Young: Ryan didn't have a typical college students schedule. Between 18 credit hours of classes and being enlisted in the Indiana National Guard, and her ROTC training schedule, she had to balance a lot. And if that wasn't enough, she also worked a part- time job.
Ryann Laky: So as soon as I came to Purdue, I started off taking quite a few credit hours. And literally the first thing I did when I came on campus was I applied for a job at the Subway by Follett's. So, I started working as soon as I got there, even before I unpacked my stuff in my dorm, I was like, okay, I need to get a job first.
Kate Young: And on top of all of that, Ryan was also involved in the Veterans Success Center, she explains what that experience means to her.
Ryann Laky: I first got involved in that center when Taylor Yo sent me an email and asked, " Hey, would you?" And I know it wasn't directly towards me, it was just a blanket email. But she said, " Hey, would you be interested in applying and interviewing to become a peer advisor for veteran education?" And I was like, " Well, what is this?" Because I did not know at any point that this program of the Veteran Success Center had existed on campus. So I said, " Sure, yeah, why not." And actually, in the interview process for becoming that peer advisor to veteran inaudible is there in his office, because there's no way this whole office is just about bringing veterans in. And she told me all of the things that they offer and I just really got hooked. Jamie, with his super magnetic personality, he really makes you feel at home and welcome. I think a lot of that really bleeds into the rest of the atmosphere of the Veterans Success Center, a lot of people that go there get really attached. But that's largely due to his magnetic personality. He offers no judgment, He doesn't need anything, he just kind of creates a comfortable home for you to hang out in and talk and meet people with the same interests. The Veterans Success Center also offers a lot of other really cool things like you get to meet people with those same interests, but you also get to meet people with different backgrounds. So, I enlisted in 2016 and in the big scheme of things, I'm relatively new to the army. But a lot of the people that I met there they've been in the Navy for 13 years, they've been in the Marines for four years, took like a 10 year break and now they're back at school. Lots of different age gaps, experiences. And then with that, there's also a lot of opportunities for professional development. So in January 2020, there was the national convention for Student Veterans of America held in Los Angeles, and the program paid for six of us to go there entirely funded. And it's basically a week long conference where we get to attend all of these different sessions. We got to hear Simon Sinek speak if you've ever heard of him, and a couple other keynote speakers that were just incredible. We got to go through some workshops, and really just network and it's like, I think they had close to 3000 student veterans that were there. Yeah, it was incredible. So just lots of opportunities like that. Not to mention, they also will connect you with a lot of larger companies that are specifically looking for student veterans from Purdue, Northrop Grumman, larger companies like that. So, there's a lot of more tangible things that the Veteran Success Center offers that I think are fantastic. But even more than that I have connections that I'm going to have for years and even this Thursday, I'm getting dinner with friends that I met through the Veteran Success Center so.
Kate Young: Ryan discusses how her Purdue professors, mentors and leaders supported her throughout her college career. It's something she says she will always admire about Purdue. You talked about time management. You were taking 18 credit hours, you worked at Subway like you said, not only that you have all of these extra ROTC things, trying to probably see friends at some point, right? Living the college experience. How did Purdue's set you up with these time management skills and now in your future in your career right now?
Ryann Laky: A lot of it really has to do with the resources. So in food science and also in Purdue's ROTC program, and in the Veterans Success Center, all of the people that manage those programs are really, really helpful when understanding like, when I would go to an ROTC like four day weekend training event or something. I would talk to my professors and say, " Hey, I have this going on." And they're like, "You know what, that's totally fine. Just get with us when you can, we'll get you caught up." They really were just understanding all around that I have all these different priorities going on. I think that was the biggest asset with Purdue, because I've heard horror stories from other universities that if you're in the military or if you're involved on campus and you have extracurriculars that you're involved in, your professors won't budge. They're like a deadline is a deadline. And not to say that it's easy to take advantage of. But it is just really helpful because a big part of college is obviously getting the degree, doing well in classes, et cetera. But an even larger part, I'd argue are the soft skills that you develop. And a lot of that really comes from those extracurriculars and those other developments. So just having that really understanding home base to kind of reach back and say, hey, I've got this going on in all sectors really helped me.
Kate Young: Ryan graduated from Purdue in May 2020. She explains her career within the Indiana National Guard.
Ryann Laky: And it's kind of interesting because in the guard, we wear two hats. So there's full- time side of the guard, which is just like a standard Monday through Friday 9: 00 to 5: 00, but we also are the weekend warriors at the same time. So really, I work a standard 40 hour work week plus whatever duties that I have on the traditional side, we call it the traditional side just being that one weekend a month. With how the luck that I've had since I've commissioned and graduated has lined up, I hope to make a full time career out of Indiana National Guard and graduate after 20 years of serving active duty. I didn't realize this, a lot of people when they think of the military, they think we just blow stuff up and shoot guns, right? And that's really not the case, we at least where I work right now, I do a lot of the logistical management and manage the staff who manage the logistics for all of Indiana's support to domestic operations. So if anything within our state or even within the country, big one right now obviously COVID- 19 response defense support to civil authorities. We also have like smaller groups like for snow removal or for like natural disaster relief and things like that. We manage the logistics portion of that and get the soldiers ready to go where they need to go.
Kate Young: And in true Ryan fashion she's working full- time while enlisted in the guard and is also earning her master's degree.
Ryann Laky: I'm actually getting my master's right now at University of Indianapolis in data analytics. And I'm hoping to use that along with the soft skills that I developed at Purdue and then also the role that I have right now to continue to rise in the ranks of the Indiana Army National Guard and hopefully be the one making big decisions one day.
Kate Young: Talk about a persistent pursuit. Ryan is a Boilermaker through and through. The third veteran in our story is Major General Teresa Carter, US Air Force veteran and Purdue University Trustee. Like Ryan, Teresa was also involved in Purdue's ROTC program. I of course, did some research on Teresa beforehand, and wow, she's impressive. And that's the understatement of the year. As soon as I started my conversation with Teresa, I knew she was special. She shares her background with us.
Theresa Carter: First of all, I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the podcast today. I look forward to spending some time with you. I was born in Colorado, moved to California when I was about six months old, and then moved to Albuquerque when I was seven. So that's what I consider home and was where I grew up. One of four kids, I was very active in sports. Swam on a swim team in the summer and then in Junior High in high school played volleyball, basketball and softball. Prior to going to Purdue I had really never been east of New Mexico. So I didn't know what the Midwest looked like or anything like that. But really at Purdue I absolutely loved everything about being a Boilermaker. After I graduated, I was commissioned into the Air Force as a second lieutenant. Honestly, I never imagined that I would stay more than four years, and I can't believe I served for 31 and retired as a two star. I did retire in July of 2016. And I currently live in Colorado Springs where I serve as an advisor to companies that support the military. And I also recently finished using my GI Bill benefits to earn a doctorate in Business Administration from Drexel University. I graduated in June of this past year.
Kate Young: Wow, congrats.
Theresa Carter: Yeah, that was again a hard thing to do. But it was again, an amazing opportunity to have the benefit there to help pay for school. At Purdue I had also previously served on the Industrial Engineering Advisory Council, and I'm currently on the Purdue Alumni Association Board of Directors and started my role as a trustee in July of 2020.
Kate Young: And what brought you to Purdue from New Mexico?
Theresa Carter: Well, I had a guidance counselor who was a Michigan grad, and I told her I wanted to study computer science. So she went over and one of those old big metal gray filing cabinets opened a drawer and pulled out postcards because at the time, there was no internet, you sent postcards to say, hey, send me material. So she gave me cards for Boston University, Michigan, and Purdue. And I got into all of them. Michigan was even going to give me some more scholarship money but I thought Boston was too far. And Michigan's program was actually in their school of engineering. And I said, I don't want to be an engineer. So really the only thing I knew about Purdue at the time was that they generally spoiled Notre Dame's football season. And I was a huge fighting irish fan growing up. And then when I got to Purdue, I quickly realized computer science was not a good fit for me. And after my first semester, I was really lucky that Purdue has great world class engineering programs. So I changed my major to industrial engineering with an emphasis in human factors and just thoroughly enjoyed the IE curriculum.
Kate Young: And what made Teresa want to join the military?
Theresa Carter: My dad was in the Navy in World War II, and his father was in the Army in World War I. My brother always wanted to be a pilot. And he was going through ROTC at the University of Colorado at the time. I knew that if I wanted to go to school out of state, I had to have a scholarship. And so I looked at what my brother went through. And I thought, well, I kind of like the military. And I think I have the grades and extra curricular activity to be competitive. And so I was fortunate, I earned both a Navy and an Air Force ROTC scholarship. And I ultimately picked the Air Force, my brother said, and at that time, it was 1981. He said, " The Air Force had more career fields open to women." And he thought I would have more opportunity if I went Air Force versus Navy. And my dad was okay with it.
Kate Young: Similar to Ryan, Teresa balanced a lot during her time at Purdue. You must have been incredibly busy, an engineering student. On top of that, you have ROTC and everything that comes with that. When it comes to time management skills, leadership, how did Purdue tee you up for success after graduation?
Theresa Carter: I think it was a lot of different things. I'm a huge collector of quotes because I think other people sometimes capture the essence of something much better than I could. And one of my favorites comes from Henry Ford. And he said, " My best friend is the one that brings out the best in me." And I think in many ways, the best leaders are the ones who bring out the best in those round them. They create an environment where people can thrive where they feel safe, I can take a risk, I can try new things. And I often like to say that these are the kinds of leaders that can make one plus one equal four. They get the most out of their teams, they inspire them to achieve what they may have looked at and said, oh, that's impossible we can't do it. And I think I also learned specifically within ROTC the importance of learning to tap into the amazing expertise and talent that is part of our enlisted Corps. And also being humble enough to recognize that the best leaders could be working for you. I was blessed in my career, I had three senior noncommissioned officers that were just amazing leaders who worked for me. And I was always in awe of watching them what they were able to achieve, and really try to be a good student and capture and cherish the lessons that I learned by watching them in action.
Kate Young: She explains her experience with ROTC and how what she once thought was a disappointment changed the course of her entire military career.
Theresa Carter: I think the thing that stands out for me the most about my ROTC experience is, I'm very much an introvert. And so at times I really need people to push me. So my first couple of years, I'm trying to get used to being away from home, tackling the introductory engineering courses which are kind of hard and time consuming, and trying to really balance everything. One of my instructors at the time was Major Bruce Johnston. He was the commandant of cadets. And anytime that I was hesitant to try something, he always pushed me and encouraged me. Really he wouldn't let me sit back which I was inclined to do. He forced me to get engaged, stay engaged. And I know for sure as a result, I had the opportunity to serve as the Cadet Wing Commander in the fall semester, my senior year. When it came time to get our assignments upon graduation. I was disappointed I didn't get the career field I wanted, and he was great at helping me understand why would be a good fit in the civil engineering career field. He just had a profound influence on me both during my time at Purdue, and throughout the rest of my career. And so I found I often called upon him to get his advice and counsel, and I'm still good friends with him today. He pinned on my second lieutenant rank and my two star rank so he was a great book into my career.
Kate Young: We also love on this podcast kind of telling stories of what people might think is failure. But of course, your persistence and you keep going, Boilermakers keep going, right? So tell us about that experience that when you were let down and you wanted to go one way and you went a different way in the end?
Theresa Carter: That's a great point. Like I said, I love quotes. And so, sometimes I use lyrics from songs. And I like to tell people that Mick Jagger was right, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. And for me, I thought I wanted to be a human factors engineer sitting in a lab with the Air Force doing cockpit design or doing things like that. The thing that I didn't recognize but I absolutely loved about the career field that I did get assigned to which was civil engineering. Why it was such a good fit is it was just the leadership aspect of it. As a brand new lieutenant, I was in charge of 25 to 50 people. And if I had gotten what I thought I wanted, I probably would have stayed four years and went and did something else. But I was so energized by the ability to lead people and learn from them and solve problems that civil engineering provided that that's what kept me in for three decades.
Kate Young: Teresa has a long list of accolades under her belt. She was the first female Civil Engineering Officer promoted to Brigadier General, and first serve as the Air Force Civil Engineer, the career fields highest ranking officer. And on top of those military achievements, she was named an outstanding industrial engineer alumna for Purdue, and the School of Industrial Engineering's outstanding industrial engineer. She is also part of the Purdue University ROTC Hall of Fame.
Theresa Carter: I would say really, any of the recognition that I've been fortunate to receive I recognized was not earned by me alone. I mean, I'm really grateful that I have family and friends, and my fellow airmen throughout my Air Force career that really played a big part in my having an opportunity to take a problem and turn it into a solution or a success. So, in many ways it's kind of humbling to think about. As I'm sitting here thinking about it, if you've seen the movie Saving Private Ryan, there's a scene towards the end, where Tom Hanks' character, looks at Private Ryan and says, " Earn this." Talking about the sacrifice and the effort that they made to locate him so he can get home to his family. And then at the end of the movie, there's another scene where Private Ryan is standing at Captain Miller's grave. And he turns to his wife and he asked whether he lived the life worthy of that sacrifice. Because I could only imagine, let's assume that was a real setting, the enormous weight on somebody's shoulders to think everybody did that just for one person. So in some ways, I try to remind myself to use any of that recognition as a motivation to pay it forward or to give back to all of the people and institutions like Purdue and frankly, the nation, for making it all possible. Because I've been blessed to have the military pay for four degrees. My degree at Purdue, two master's degrees, and now a doctorate. And I think I conclude by saying that my favorite quote comes from a guy named Leo Rosten, he was a Polish author, I can't remember how many years ago I found it but it says, " I cannot believe the purpose of life is merely to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be honorable, and to be compassionate. It's above all to matter, to count and to stand for something, and to have it make some difference you lived at all." And so I always remember that quote, and I really feel compelled to feel like I'm making my life worthy of all the blessings and opportunity that I've had, and hopefully and then be able to look back and say, okay, I made a difference. And I've told people a lot that I think throughout my career, I felt very blessed to be kind of right place, right people, right time. Kind of beginning at Purdue, I just happened to be around this group of people that were very supportive. People encouraged and they pushed me. And then the opportunities to travel to meet some amazing people. And I think I have many friends who I think are much more talented and capable than me. I was just the one again, kind of fortunate to have a problem thrown at you. And then you have a chance to try and fix it or solve a problem. In the 31 years that I served, I had 17 different assignments. So it was a lot of moving around. Some of the more unique opportunities is I spent a year on Shemya Air Force Base, which is on Shemya Island at the end of the Aleutian chain. Had a chance to build, maintain and upgrade a tent city in the United Arab Emirates during the first Gulf War. Probably one of the most challenging assignments was being the installation commander at Joint Base San Antonio. Which is the largest joint base in the Department of Defense. And then a very unique opportunity to finish my career standing up a brand new organization, and being its first commander. So, I clearly did not expect to stay as long as I did, and certainly to be the first woman in my career field to become a general officer and serve as the Air Force Civil Engineer. But I think through it all, and I think this is across the board, any military member that you talk to, the things they miss the most when they take the uniform off are the people with whom they served, you just make some lifelong friends inaudible and make those bonds even stronger.
Kate Young: Teresa still has strong ties to Purdue. In fact, she's now a trustee for Purdue University.
Theresa Carter: I have found my time at Purdue's so rewarding and really special that I just felt compelled to stay engaged as much as I could. I've come back multiple times since I graduated to talk with Air Force cadets. I've talked with students in the industrial engineering and women in engineering programs. And then being a sports net, there's nothing better than going to a football game or a basketball game at Purdue. All of those things gave me chances to reunite and stay connected with my Purdue classmates whenever possible. And so that's been awesome. In fact, I just got back from a hiking trip in Moab with one of my industrial engineering classmates and we had a great time. And we got to watch a spank Iowa on Saturday in between hiking and then going to watch a sunset and catch all the stars. So that was awesome.
Kate Young: That's a great Saturday.
Theresa Carter: Yeah, it was. I mean, a great five mile hike in the morning, watch a good football game, and then watch a brilliant sunset. So I view Purdue as really a catalyst to help me do what I have the opportunity to do in the Air Force. And so I just feel compelled to give back time, talent and treasure as much as I can. I'm really honored to be able to serve as a trustee because it is an amazing group of leaders that I think are clearly dedicated to help serve Boilermakers past, present and future. I was at the homecoming game this very soggy homecoming game.
Kate Young: Yes.
Theresa Carter: And just walking around before the game seeing folks that had painted their cords. I mean, I remember as a member of mortar board getting together as a group and we designed our senior chords. I still have them, I'm not sure if they would fit but I still have them. Again, the experience of being at a game is second to none. It wasn't until 2008 when I was stationed in Illinois and that was about a four hour drive from campus that I got season tickets for football and basketball. And that was the first time I'd been back for a basketball game. It just reminded me of what I missed. It was Robbie Hummel, inaudible, Huan Johnson, I mean, just one of those great collection of Purdue players and it was amazing. I remember, again, living so far from campus, walking to campus when the sidewalks were icy, and it was cold and then you trudge up underneath the math science building and you just have that wind vortex. Yeah, so many good memories, really every time I'm on campus, even though things have changed quite a bit, new buildings, the whole renovation of State Street is amazing. There's a sound, there's a smell. There's a view that reminds you oh, yeah, I remember that. And that's why like, I just love being back on campus.
Kate Young: I'm always curious what the Purdue community means to Boilermakers. And I love hearing the answers. Like Teresa said, when you get back on campus as an alumni, there's just a certain feeling you have. She explains what this Purdue spirit and community means to her.
Theresa Carter: So the thing that immediately popped into my head was one of the units that I was part of, and a lot of unit, just about every unit has a motto. And this one it was can do, will do, have done. To me, that captures kind of that pragmatic problem solving orientation which I think is what makes Boilermakers special and different from others. If you just look in the past couple of years, when Isaac Hose got hurt in March Madness, and you had hordes of students trying to design a brace for his elbow so that he could play. And then just last year, you had the entire Protect Purdue team that was leading the university through very early and uncertain stages of the COVID pandemic. And what I thought was remarkable is they didn't focus on what they couldn't do. But they focused on what they could do and should do, to me, the university's obligation to continue delivering a first class education. So to me, the Boilermaker spirit means never giving up. You view something that maybe didn't go exactly like you hoped or you wanted, not as a failure, but it's an opportunity to learn and try again.
Kate Young: When I asked Ryan, Jamie, the same question, their answers were so similar. And it had to do with some Purdue gear they happen to be wearing. Here's Ryan.
Ryann Laky: Well, really, I would say it's more of a home and it's a family. And it doesn't matter whether you just graduated, or you graduated 50 years ago. Even in the grocery store, I was visiting my family in Toledo and I was wearing a Purdue sweatshirt. And someone came up to me and they're like, " Hey you went to Purdue?" And I'm like, " Yeah, I did. I just graduated about a year and a half ago." And they're like" Oh, my gosh, I graduated 29 years ago, how is it?" and I'm like, " Well, it's fantastic." It really is insane. It's just like, it's a family. So anyway, I made connections with them. We found out that we're both from Toledo. And we both decided to go to Purdue for different reasons, but they are just really interesting. Really, anywhere you go, someone is going to recognize the Purdue fast tee, they're going to recognize that label and that brand, and they're going to try to make a connection with you. And I think that's really the biggest part because there are a lot of people who would go through Purdue and probably won't even recognize how big of a span of influence that it has. But really, that community is just a family. It's a family that is almost never ending. Anywhere you go, you're going to find somebody who went to Purdue, has a family member that went to Purdue and is willing to make those connections. I find that even a lot of people who graduated a long time ago, they're like, " Well, what's your background in? Oh, I know somebody I can hook you up with. Get you an interview, something anything, give me your resume," things like that, just because Purdue does have that great reputation.
Kate Young: And Jamie.
Jamie Richards: One year I went to Traverse City it was during the summertime, at Traverse City, Michigan, and I was at the beach in mission point. And just enjoying I was there with my family. And we were just having a good time. And I had I think a Purdue hat on. And this gentleman comes up to me and says boiler up, and we start talking and play football in the Rose Bowl team. We had a nice conversation. Similarly, I was at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda this year, I was wearing my Purdue hat and someone came up and started talking to me about their experience at Purdue and that their son and now their grandson, and it was just this community, it extends beyond our campus. If you were your Purdue gear anywhere, you're going to find someone in your daily travel is going to come up and say, " Hey, Boilermaker boiler up?" Or where did you study? Or what did you do? And to me, that extensive community is really important. When I'm on campus, there are very few days that I don't want to come to work and very few days that I go home unhappy. Because the experience here is you're part of this seeing all these people developing their potential and getting themselves really aligned for their future in life. There's just like this energy level fits always this undercurrent of like future experience is going to happen. And I really enjoy that. So kind of the combination of the two is really what I look at is the meeting people outside and talking to them about their time here at Purdue and how that connects them, what that means to them. And then seeing the people developing that while they're here. It's a fun circle.
Kate Young: I asked all three Purdue veterans what Veterans Day means to them. And of course, each answer was different. But the overarching theme was similar. Here's Jamie, what does Veterans Day mean to you as a Navy veteran?
Jamie Richards: It's really kind of a two thought process for me. One, it's an opportunity to reflect on those who have served, everybody that served in the military, and kind of what that service means. I try to tend to reflect on it based kind of on around what's going on at that time. And think about it from that context. So it can change how I reflected on that changes. The other side of it is it allows me a chance to reflect on what that meant. This is 20 years of my life that I served, I did six active and then 14 in the reserves. And it's a chance for me to reflect on how that context fits in my life as well and what that means to me and what that means to my service and how I fit in the overall 200 plus years of our nation? What that little contribution means. So it really is a two pong kind of thought process for me. I think part of it is because of the experiences I've had, but I really value that these are students. They are here because they were willing to say, willing to raise their hand and say I want to support our nation. And they've earned that, they've earned that educational benefit, whether it's a veteran, whether it's someone that's still in the military or a family member because that family member also had someone that stepped up and said, I'm willing to do this. And many times that family member moved around the world with their parents or their spouse as well. I hope people kind of understand that, especially as they kind of reflect on Veterans Day and they look around and they might see students on campus with a camouflage backpack or maybe wearing a patch on their hat from their unit that they had. These are people that are here because they worked really hard to be here. And this is an opportunity that they've made in their life for them to be able to move forward. So, happy Veterans Day to them. I thank everybody for their time in the service, and for family members especially, because that's the hardest part of it is when your parent or your spouse, or your brother or sister is deployed, and you're back home, that's the hardest job there is too.
Kate Young: And here is Ryan, what is Veterans Day mean to you?
Ryann Laky: So it's really interesting for me. It's the people know that I serve and they say, " Thank you for your service, thank you for everything that you've done." And I'm like, " Well, I really haven't done anything yet, right? I'm still doing." So to me, Veterans Day is really a time for me to thank those who have served before me, because if it weren't for them I wouldn't be here. As a civilian, I am able to live free in the greatest country on Earth, and be happy and safe, all because of the veterans that have served before me. But I'm also able to thrive and strive to be the best that I can be in the United States military that we have today because of those that have come before me. And even then the women that have served in the military before me. So really, it's just a time to thank all of those who have just paved the path for me right now.
Kate Young: And finally, Teresa. What does Veterans Day mean to someone like yourself who has served for 31 years and it's been ingrained in your life?
Theresa Carter: You know more than anything, veterans day is an opportunity that we collectively can remember. And perhaps even more than an opportunity, I would say it's almost a duty, and an obligation that we have as a nation to remember and honor the men and women past and present, who have very well and faithfully served the nation. I often think because on Veterans Day, you're going to see stories, you're going to see images of people who have served. And it always reminds me of another great scene in a movie that I love from Dead Poets Society. And if you've seen the movie, you remember Robin Williams had this club of students in the hallway, he had them stare at a trophy case, pictures from previous teams. And he's telling them, " Hey, you walk by these pictures all the time, but have you really stopped to look at them? They're whispering their legacy to you gotta listen. Can you hear it? Seize the day, carpe diem, make your lives extraordinary." And I always think of that when I look at a picture of somebody in uniform, and try to imagine what they were going through at the time. Were they proud that they had made it through basic training? Were they heartbroken that they had just lost a buddy of theirs? Or were they humbly being decorated for something that people say is courageous and heroic, and they thought they were just doing their job? A lot of our veterans and you've probably heard this in talking to Jamie, they're reluctant to tell their story. Again, they're humble, hey, I just did my job. But the stories need to be told, not only to inspire but we really need to capture and document their courage, their sacrifice, whether they served in peacetime or in times of war. Because no matter how long you served or under what circumstances, raising your right hand and taking an oath to serve the nation made a difference. So I guess what I would ask your listeners to do on Veterans Day is, I suppose to pay tribute to those who have served if you have a veteran or are currently serving member in your life, ask them to share their story and to keep sharing their story and their legacy with future generations. Because I think it's important to do that.
Kate Young: Well, thank you for sharing that. I think that's great advice for everyone out there. I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of the military men and women out there for your service to our country. If you'd like to learn more about the Veterans Success Center at Purdue, please visit purdue. edu/ veterans. And if you have any questions for Jamie, you can email dogtags @ purdue. edu. I'll leave you all with this beautiful Armed Forces medley by the Purdue University Purduettess that you heard at the beginning of this episode. (singing). Thanks for listening to This is Purdue. For more information on this episode visit our website at purdue. edu/ podcast. There you can head over to your favorite podcast app to subscribe and leave us a review. And as always, boiler up.
In this episode of “This Is Purdue,” we’re talking to Jamie Richards (USN, retired) and Director of Purdue’s Veterans Success Center, Major General Theresa Carter (USAF, Retired) DBA, and Purdue University Trustee, and Ryann Laky, Deputy Joint Operations Center Officer in Charge, Indiana National Guard.
You’ll hear more about how Purdue’s ROTC program prepared both Ryann and Theresa for their military careers, the Veterans Success Center's programs and resources for military-connected students, and the Student Veteran Organization, which serves as a source of knowledge, support, representation and camaraderie.
Plus, these three Purdue veterans share what Veterans Day means to them.