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Shad Satterthwaite Continues Proud Legacy of Veteran Leadership at OU

Shad Satterthwaite Continues Proud Legacy of Veteran Leadership at OU

Dr. Shad Satterthwaite

Beginning a college career can be challenging for anyone, but for students who have served in the military, adjusting to life on campus can present unique hurdles. 

Helping student veterans at the University of Oklahoma ease into student life are classmates and mentors who understand this process because they’ve walked the same path themselves. 

One of those people is Shad Satterthwaite, director of Executive Business Programs in Aerospace and Defense in the Michael F. Price College of Business and faculty adviser for the OU Student Veterans Association. Satterthwaite has served in various roles at OU for over 20 years -- all while also serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. Throughout that time, he has used his leadership skills and experiences acquired in the Reserves to accentuate his ability to connect and guide students both veteran and civilian alike at OU.

Despite his history as a colonel who served during two tours in Afghanistan, Veterans Day does not alter his teaching style or affect his outlook on what it means to serve. His observation of servicemen and women is constant throughout his life.

But one lesson he wants his students to understand: The spirit of serving rests with everyone.

“I always wanted to make a point to be a good citizen,” said Satterthwaite. “You don’t have to be in the military to be a good citizen.”

PAVE Student Dan Nyagol

That sentiment has been reflected in his guidance of young people dealing with the struggles of transitioning from military life to the open structure of student life.

With that guidance, he has encouraged current OU students involved with the Peer Advisors for Veterans Education program (PAVE), to support and connect with their fellow veteran students. PAVE is designed to assist incoming student veterans as they make the transition from active duty to college, as well as support them by identifying challenges that may arise and referring them to proper resources on or off campus. 

“We want to create a pool of contacts for servicemen and women,” said Nyagol. “We want to help provide opportunities and resources to junior enlisted service members.”

“The whole point is to build a sense of community,” added Condreay. “We want to help create an environment where veterans feel welcome.”

Some of that desire to ensure OU remains a welcoming place for veterans comes from Satterthwaite’s mentorship.

“Anytime we have questions or whatever we may have, they’ve (Satterthwaite and the SVA) been there for guidance or to provide contacts to help us,” explained Condreay. “Here is how this process can go, and here is who can help you.”

PAVE Student Philip Condreay

Another experience of helping student veterans involved a young man who served in the Iraq War who dealt with the transition from structured military life to the open schedules of academia.

“You have to understand he came from a place that was running 24-hour operations,” said Satterthwaite. “He couldn’t handle such an open schedule because it was so different from what he experienced in Iraq. I explained to him that he needed to come up with a daily objective. I helped him see his day as a series of tasks that needed to be addressed as if it was a military problem.”

The advice did more than guide the struggling student veteran – it helped lead to larger opportunities.

“He became one of the first presidents of the Student Veterans Association,” Satterthwaite said. “Those are some of the things that have been most rewarding to me – helping to provide networks to students and veterans.”

Dr. Shad Satterthwaite

The transitioning schedule is an easy hurdle to see from an outside perspective. But simply not knowing who to ask questions because the safety net of a chain-of-command doesn’t exist can build an uncomfortable feeling of doubt: doubt that can lead to a unique form of imposter syndrome distinctive among some student veterans.

Thanks to Satterthwaite’s guidance and the students involved with PAVE, OU hopes to become even more appealing and accommodating to its veteran student population.

“There is a proud history here, very patriotic,” said Satterthwaite. “I’ve received a lot of support here from OU.”

During his 2003 tour serving overseas in Afghanistan, Satterthwaite was allowed to keep his job at OU – a gesture for which he expressed gratitude. As with many servicemen and women, he had family left behind:  his wife and three children.

“It was about this time in the fall,” recalled Satterthwaite. “We had all these leaves in our yard. Unsolicited, Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service fraternity, just showed up and raked all the leaves in our yard for my wife while I was gone. I was very grateful for that support."

Students and student veterans have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to tap the wisdom of leaders and supporters like Satterthwaite during their time at OU. With an institution steeped in tradition, the veteran legacy of OU is yet another legacy to be proud of.