UTMB honored faculty, staff and students who have served in the military with its first-ever Veterans Day Luncheon celebration on Nov. 2 on the Galveston Campus.
More than 200 people filled the Levin Hall Dining Room to capacity for the event, which was organized by the UTMB Veterans Resource Group (VetsRG) and several community and institutional sponsors. With about 9.5 percent of UTMB’s workforce self-identifying as military veterans or active duty personnel, UTMB President David Callender moderated a panel of four UTMB veterans who provided candid responses to questions about why they joined the military, what they learned from the experience and how the university can better support veterans.
“It’s important to encourage a mindset of feeling committed to a greater cause—and that will continue to draw people with our backgrounds to UTMB,” said Anthony Curry, UTMB assistant police chief and U.S. Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard veteran. “We have been part of something bigger than ourselves and we are looking for another stop with that same kind of connection. When I came here in 2002, my training officer told me, ‘Give it two years. If you stay here two years, you are here for life.’ And 15 years later, here I am. I’ve felt a part of something. UTMB really is a family.”
Lori Blackwell, a U.S. Navy veteran and senior administrative manager with University Events and Conferences, talked about the difficulty she had applying to jobs more than 13 years ago, when she transitioned from the military to the civilian workforce.
“One issue I faced was explaining to recruiters what I did in the military and how it could apply to a job in the civilian world,” she said. “We need to continue educating recruiters to understand what military people are trying to say in their resumes and translating that into civilian jobs.”
Juan Guerrero, a business operations manager and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and Tina Brown, a senior IT training specialist and U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves veteran, also took part in the panel discussion. Dr. Callender encouraged all veterans at UTMB to continue the dialogue on how the institution can further support veterans and make UTMB an even more welcoming place to work.
“Veterans play a critical role here and bring us experiences that translate into helping UTMB be more successful,” he said. “We want to continue to be veteran friendly and show that we are inclusive—veterans are a tremendous asset to UTMB.”
Along with the panel discussion, the luncheon featured music by the Ball High School Choir and a video created by the VetsRG showing the many faces of UTMB’s veteran workforce.
Marcel Blanchard, associate vice president of Utilities and Services and a Vietnam-era veteran, gave closing remarks. He recalled the lack of support he and other veterans coming home after Vietnam received and compared that to the numerous services available today.
“Once we returned to the states, we were wished good luck and that was it! You were on your own to figure the rest out. It was a very traumatic event for me and my family,” said Blanchard. “When I contrast that to the services we have available today through UTMB leadership and the Veterans Resource Group, it is encouraging to know that our new veterans will be better served and more prepared for the future.”
The VetsRG was formed about two years ago and was the first employee resource group to be created by the UTMB Diversity Council. Its mission is to promote an inclusive university environment for military veterans and their allies through transition support, education, career enrichment and outreach. For more information or to join the VetsRG, visit https://hr.utmb.edu/diversity/veterans
To view more photos from the Nov. 2 luncheon, visit UTMB’s Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/utmb