After 11 years of active duty in the U.S. Army, Beverly Wagner knows not to make assumptions about veterans.
“Taking off the uniform means different things to different people,” said Wagner, now a reservist. “Some people want to find ways to stay connected to the community. Others want to leave their military identity behind them. My job is to listen to all veterans and support what their needs are today.”
Wagner is the new adviser at the Washington University in St. Louis Office of Military & Veteran Services in the Division of Student Affairs. She replaces the office’s founding adviser, U.S. Air Force reservist Jen Goetz, who is serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. Wagner says she is eager to meet Washington University’s veterans, active-duty and Reserve and National Guard service members as well as dependents and survivors.
“We are turning over all of the stones to find out more about who our veterans are,” Wagner said. “What kind of support do they need? What kind of community or esprit de corps are they looking for? Those are the questions we’re asking.”
Wagner also is working toward a master’s degree in business administration at Olin Business School and is a member of the Olin Student Veterans Association. She chose Olin because of its long history of supporting veterans as well as its commitment to recruiting female students.
“Veterans feel comfortable being up in front of people and taking initiative,” Wagner said. “They know how to visualize something and then bring it into existence. Olin is a place that appreciates that leadership.”
Wagner’s first introduction to Washington University came more than a decade ago when, as an undergraduate student at University of Missouri-St. Louis, she joined the Gateway Battalion, which is based on Washington University’s North Campus and trains Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets from eight local universities. After serving on bases here and abroad, Wagner returned to the Gateway Battalion as a professor of military science. Her cadets, many of whom were Washington University students, were committed to leadership and cultural understanding.
“To be honest, I wasn’t drawn to higher education as a profession at all. I had never taught before, but I came back because of the incredibly strong ties I had to the Gateway Battalion,” said Wagner, who also is completing a degree in higher education from the University of Louisville. “I had great mentors and great friends. My best friends, to this day, are people I met through the Gateway Battalion. Once I started teaching, I realized, ‘This work is really meaningful.’ The students I met were so talented, so intelligent.”
In her new role, Wagner hopes to connect military-affiliated students to the rest of campus.
“The majority of our military-connected students are veterans and they have a wealth of life experience, maturity and leadership skills that are woven into their academic work at WashU,” Wagner said. “Our office is looking forward to facilitating connections within this population and with partners on and off campus to maximize their experience at Washington University.”