LAWRENCE — When Scott Kebler, an eight-year Marine Corps veteran, was looking for a place to attend college, he landed on the University of Kansas because of its high rating for veterans. Yet, when he arrived, he struggled to make the transition from military life to student life.
He felt isolated and missed the close connections with fellow service members that he experienced in the military. After taking a leadership studies class, Kebler realized that he could do something to help his fellow veterans on campus.
Kebler, along with classmates Angela Allen, Breonna Yungeberg and Matt Harbison, who is an Army veteran, developed a mentorship program for student veterans. They will present their project, “Supporting Veterans during Transition to College,” at Taking Leadership to the Legislature on March 26. The group is one of five from the KU Institute of Leadership Studies whose research-based leadership projects will be on display at the Capitol in Topeka. They will be joined by students from Emporia State University, Kansas State University, Southwestern College and Washburn University.
The group’s project aims to assist veterans at KU as they transition from service member to student. The group has been working in conjunction with the Student Veterans Association to build a mentorship program. To be eligible, mentors must be at least a junior or senior, have served in the military and have been honorably discharged.
Kebler wants to make sure all veterans at KU feel like they belong.
“You’re going from this place where you have all this camaraderie to where now you’re independent,” Kebler said. “You’re prepared for it in a sense because you did go through the military, but it’s a different approach that you don’t know.”
Though they do not have the same military background as their team members, Allen and Yungeberg have learned a lot about the different obstacles veterans face.
“For us it’s easy because you live in the dorms and find people your own age,” Yungeberg said. “But the age gap for some of the people that come here is crazy. And to be able to find someone to talk to — that’s difficult.”
Brittney Hamersky, who will be displaying her project, “Tolerance on Social Media,” is also trying to improve the lives of students. Her project focuses on creating policies to help high school students learn respectful habits on social media.
“High school is such an impressionable age,” Hamersky said. “They follow their peers and what they hear, and they are more likely to give into peer pressure. I wanted to focus on them to help them understand the correct way to use social media and that they can express their opinions without demoting other people.”
The full list of KU students presenting at Taking Leadership to the Legislature:
- "Promoting Brotherhood in Student Organizations": Jordan Doss, sophomore from Raymore, Missouri, majoring in business administration
- "Networking Opportunities for Honors Program Students": Lauren Henry, freshman from Novi, Michigan, majoring in accounting
- "Recess": Elyse Pendergrass, senior from Topeka, majoring in applied behavioral science and minoring in leadership studies
- "Supporting Veterans During Transition to College": Angela Allen, senior from Nixa, Missouri, majoring in sport management and minoring in leadership studies and business; Matt Harbison, senior from Lawrence, majoring in applied behavioral science and minoring in leadership studies; Scott Kebler, senior from Northbrook, Illinois, majoring in communication studies and minoring in leadership studies and business; and Breonna Yungeberg, senior from Leavenworth, majoring in communication studies and minoring in leadership studies and journalism
- "Tolerance on Social Media": Brittney Hamersky, senior from Lecompton majoring in exercise science.
The Institute for Leadership Studies at KU practices the concept of leadership as a process rather than as a position of authority. The leadership studies minor has taught this approach, known as adaptive leadership, to hundreds of students over the past decade. It is part of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.