Carroll Ensures Bellevue University Sets Standard for Supporting Military Veterans
Like so many other people in the armed services, Bellevue University's Military Veteran Services Center Manager Heather Carroll felt that enlisting was like going into the family business.
"My dad was a Marine, my grandfather [on her mom's side] was a Marine, my dad's grandpa was in the Army, so you could say that it was in my blood," Carroll said. When it came time for her to join, the process took the first of many unexpected turns.
"Initially I thought about going into the Navy," Carroll said. "When I went in, the recruiter was on the phone with his girlfriend so I decided to walk next door and chat with the Air Force rep." By the time she got through talking to the recruiter, she was sold.
Carroll arrived at basic training with a guaranteed job as an air traffic controller. However, after an unfortunate accident on an obstacle course led to a torn meniscus in her knee, she had to pivot once more, this time to a position as a medic.
Carroll was responsible for onboarding and off-boarding wounded soldiers and civilians, making sure they were stabilized before sending them home or back out into the field.
"When I joined initially, it was just supposed to be for four years," Carroll said. "But I loved it so much that I ended up staying for 20."
When she retired from the service, Carroll believed she would continue to put her medical skills to good use by becoming a nurse, but years of hard work as a medic had taken their toll, making it hard for her to stand for long periods of time. That didn't stop her from wanting to help veterans heal, so she pivoted to psychology classes at Bellevue University. After splitting time between school and working for the university, Carroll took over as the Manager of the university's Military Veteran Services Center in 2019.
"Really anything veteran-related, we'll do," she said. "And if we don't do something right now, we'll look to connect veterans with someone who can help them."
The center handles everything from job placement to finding mental health services to ensuring that the military and military-adjacent student body — nearly 20 percent of Bellevue University's overall enrollment — are getting every benefit they are entitled to.
"They might come in with a laundry list of things and it's our job to give them the resources to help them achieve whatever they need," Carroll said.
It all takes place at the 6,000 square-foot freestanding center located at the western corner of the campus.
"It's a one-stop-shop so that they don't need to run all over town," Carroll said. "So far, we've been able to help over 5,000 veterans and that's why Bellevue University sets the standard when it comes to helping out veterans." And both Carroll and the Military Veteran Services Center are continuing to grow.
Carroll recently started her master's degree in industrial and organizational psychology.
"It takes a top-down look at an organization to see how people are working together," she said. "It ensures that everyone is in the type of situation where they work best."
In addition to helping those that walk through the door, Carroll is looking to bring a wider awareness of mental healthcare to campus.
To do so, Bellevue University is partnering with Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare — a Nebraska-based mental health organization — to offer mental health first aid classes to their staff and students.
The training, which involves two hours of online modules and five hours of in-class work, helps the participants recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, de-escalate situations with people experiencing those symptoms, and connect them with the next level of care that they are going to need.
Ideally, Carroll hopes to offer the class to 10 new people each month until the entire community has undergone the training.
"I want everyone to be able to recognize this stuff in co-workers, friends, and family. It's just a great tool to help reduce the suicide rate," Carroll said. "If we can recognize these signs in behavior it will do wonders for our community. I think the sky's the limit!"
Our Military Veteran Services Center (MVSC) on Bellevue University’s main campus is dedicated to the Military and Veteran community with services and support offered both locally and globally. Visit us at the MVSC building on campus, or contact us at 1.866.676.3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn about the many services offered.