LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

Serving Those Who Serve

LSU Health Nursing Formalizes & Expands Support for Student Veterans

November 11, 2022

Army National Guard

What does a combat medic have in common with a college junior? It turns out, plenty. They are one and the same. Meet Marshay Stevenson, a Junior II student in the Traditional Nursing program at LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing, who has been a member of the Army National Guard since her junior year of high school. As a 68W Health Care Specialist, she is the first line of medical care that a soldier will receive. She comes by her love for the military and for nursing honestly.

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”I come from a military family,” says Stevenson. “My mother is a nurse, and she embodies what one would want as a nurse taking care of their loved ones. Witnessing her passion inspired me. I enjoy helping others, and I want to be able to put a smile on someone’s face when they’re going through troubling times.”

Stevenson also wears another hat. She is President of the newly approved LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing Chapter of the Student Veterans of America.

Marshay Stevenson
The premier organization leading service, research, programs, and advocacy for veterans in higher education, Student Veterans of America (SVA) has a network of more than 1,500 on-campus chapters. Its goal is to “ensure that student veterans and military-connected students achieve their greatest potential.”
Dr. Celestine Carter
“The purpose of our chapter is to collaborate with SVA Headquarters, other SVA chapters and LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing administration to provide military-affiliated students and families the resources to adapt and overcome transitions in nursing higher education,” notes faculty advisor Celestine Carter, APRN, DNS, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing who retired from the Army Reserves- Nurse Corps as a full bird colonel after nearly 30 years of service. “The mission is to provide support, advocacy and a network for educational, professional, and social opportunities and continued selfless service beyond graduation.”
Active military and veterans can face challenges unique to military service. Ranging from integrating into civilian life to adjusting to less structure and deployments, they can be especially difficult in school.

“I often miss class due to orders, and it can be challenging catching up on my schoolwork,” Stevenson explains.” There are also other challenges, though.”

After serving as a medic, graduating from airborne school and serving overseas, Junior II and veteran Dalton Tollner relates, “When I first started my prerequisite classes at LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge, I was fresh out of that military atmosphere, and the younger college atmosphere was really jarring at first.”

At the campus’s Military and Veterans Student Center, Tollner, who handles Public Relations for LSU Health’s SVA chapter, found comfort in being around other prior service students who knew what he was going through and had similar goals – something the SVA chapter at LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing also provides.

Dalton Tollner
SVA’s benefits don’t stop there.
Deja Cheatham
Deja Cheatham, a fellow service member and classmate who chose nursing as a profession in middle school, elaborates.

“This organization affords me the opportunity to share lived experiences with other people with military backgrounds.” Cheatham, a vehicle mechanic in the Army National Guard and a Junior II, is Vice President of the LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing SVA chapter. “It also gives me the opportunity to receive support from others and to provide support to others who understand the challenges that come with serving in the military.”

Dr. Carter knows the value of that all too well.

“For the last two decades, our student RNs have relied on LSU Health New Orleans faculty and other veteran employees to answer questions about matters such as socialization into nursing school, tuition, the GI bill, grants, stipends, and requesting leave time for deployment,” she says. “Having an SVA chapter provides military-affiliated students with access to resources and a military community that they can relate to, interact with, and have needs met. This promotes camaraderie among SVA members and allows them to function effectively and pay it forward to incoming military-affiliated students.“

Adds Stevenson, “LSU Health New Orleans was in dire need of a central point for military members and military-affiliated persons to find resources to help enhance our educational experience. We needed an organization to bring together the military community and allow us to help, depend on, and motivate one another. The SVA is exactly what we needed.”

Cheatham amplifies the advantage of having a chapter. “I see SVA supporting veterans by providing a safe space for people who serve and by advocating for special situations veterans may experience.”

“With the assistance of our administration following the SVA chapter’s approval in August 2022, chapter officers -- President Marshay Stevenson, Vice President Deja Cheatham and Alumni officer Major Giang Martinez -- hit the ground running,” Carter reports. “Within a week, they established recruitment stations at the nursing school, new student orientation and Family Day. They launched a website, set up a shared office, and a bulletin board that is centrally located by the third-floor elevators in the School of Nursing and Allied Health.”

SVA officers

Plans include organizing fundraisers, Student RN boot camps, and restaurant give-back days. Service and community involvement opportunities include 5K runs for awareness, Ruck marches for PTSD, wounded warriors, and sending holiday cards and care packages to deployed soldiers. Officers plan to attend the January 2023 National Convention in Orlando, Florida, to network with the national SVA and other chapter members.

Membership is open to any nursing student enrolled in at least one credit hour who is a veteran, reservist, National Guard, or active-duty service member. Any student who has graduated from LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing and is a veteran, reservist, National Guard, or active-duty service member may be an Alumni member. There is also an honorary membership category that includes dependents of military members (spouses & children). More information is available here.

The chapter now has 17 members and has big plans to expand.

“We intend on encouraging every military-affiliated student at LSUHSC to join to grow our organization into a huge community of support for veterans and military-affiliated students,” exclaims Stevenson.