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Tennessee college helps student-veterans on their post-military paths

The Daniels Center provides services to land in the civilian workforce
By Ramona Schindelheim
November 30, 2020

It’s not uncommon to hear that those in the military have difficulty determining their next steps once their service has ended.

Kevin Wittwer enlisted in the Army after 9/11. After completing his three years, Wittwer enrolled in college using his GI Bill benefits, but discovered he missed serving. “I realized how much I missed the military, so I joined ROTC, and then did six years as an officer.”

After volunteering to serve in the military for a total of nine years, Wittwer was not sure what to do next. “I know it’s changed a lot since I’ve been through that, but my experience coming off of that is I really didn’t have any idea what I was going to do. I didn’t really have someone to help me pick a major or anything. So it was all kind of on my own.”

Keith Huber is senior advisor for veterans and leadership initiatives at Middle Tennessee State University. MTSU is home to the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center.

Huber is a retired lieutenant general, U.S. Army, who served in the military for 38 years. “I don’t care if you’ve served four years or 40 years, you come out of an environment where your bond together of commonality, of task and mission, sacrifice, service, and unconditional trust, because in some circumstances, you’re willing on a daily basis to give your lives for each other.”

“You enter this civilian environment, which by any stretch of the imagination is less organized and less disciplined, and you go, ‘Who do I go to now that I no longer have my military unit? The people I trusted unconditionally. The people I could ask any question to and they would give me an accurate, timely, relevant, unbiased answer without criticism or ridicule. Who do I go to? I’ve lost that ability, that sense of purpose.’”

The Daniels Center helps student-veterans navigate civilian pathways. Huber notes, “The ability to sit down with them and go, ‘Okay, what do you think you want to do? And here’s some companies that we know of that are hiring. Instead of doing what the military told you to do, now you’ve got a choice, figuring out what that is.’”

“Then we make the connections with the employers and help you sit down and understand how your military experience and your life experiences can accurately and legitimately transfer into a resume. And here’s how you do an interview and here’s how you communicate.”

Wittwer currently works as a cybersecurity consultant and credits the Daniels Center for helping him land his first tech job.

Cristin Wittwer is a military spouse married to Kevin. As recruiting director for Waffle House, she hires veterans and is actively involved with the Daniels Center. “For me personally, I just appreciate so much what veterans have done for our country. I want to make sure that they’re taken care of when they need to advance their career.”

“Being married to a veteran, I know the type of skillset that he is trained in and is exposed to. Both the leadership skills, all the extensive training that he’s received. So as an employer, that’s very exciting to know that this person already has an experience before they come on board.”

“When employers look at people they want to hire, they want to hire people who can communicate face-to-face and in writing. They want to hire people who can be team players. Well, that’s the military and it’s perfectly suited for that,” says Huber.

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