Words of Wisdom From A Non-traditional, disabled Veteran Student

Dawn Trottier

By Dawn Trottier

As a student returning for my senior year at the University of Idaho, I would like to offer some inspiration to help you along your path to success. I am a non-traditional disabled Veteran student. I had no idea that it would take me this long to complete my degree. I’m a local woman keeping a promise I made as a child to the moose head located in the College of Natural Resources building. The simple promise was that someday I would come back and graduate from this college. Several decades later, here I am, in the last year of my degree, keeping that promise.

I admit my journey along the path of academia has been a challenge. In my first year here, I had no-one, except for the promise I’d made, and the Women’s Center. I came across the Women’s Center about halfway through my first semester, and can truly say that I found hope and support there. I came into the Center, and I was accepted for who I am. I could be myself and I was safe. In my second semester, I was asked in one of my English classes “If you could change one thing about your U-Idaho experience, what would it be? My answer was “more services for non-traditional students.” This was a tall order, because there was very little, except for some emerging programs and a resource booklet put together by Lysa Salsbury. I took a deep breath, summoned some courage, and asked for help. With that simple act of courage, and collaboration by the Women’s Center and the Dean of Students Office, a comprehensive website for non-traditional students was created.

From my second through my fifth year at U-Idaho, I wondered about Veterans and what could be done to provide services for this growing segment of the student population. There was a small student organization with about four members wondering about the same thing. Veterans were coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Personally, I was going through difficult times. The stress of facing death was very real, and I needed support for my PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and my other disabilities. I began to feel a need for a Veterans Group at this time. Veterans were the ones who could understand what I was going through. I wanted peer mentors and outside support. The University was seeing more veterans needing help and support. Support to help veterans transition was a must, not only for students, but for the University itself. With courage, support, imagination and determination, the veterans’ student group conceived a Veterans Center for the U of I. One year later, the University opened the James F. Amos Veteran Center located in the Commons today.

In the last several years, I have worked to stabilize myself and to support others who struggle with academics, not as a faculty or staff member, but as a non-traditional disabled Veteran student who understands the hardships faced by these students. I have come to realize that courage, hope, belief in one’s dreams, and personal acceptance can really lead to change.

I hope this brief overview of my experience as a student at the University of Idaho inspires you to get involved, ask questions, and to connect to a network that fits your needs. And if there isn’t one, find the support you need to build it. Whether you’re a student or not, you matter and you count. I have found that dreams can become reality, and the road of academia is full of wonder and new experiences. All you have to do is dream, and don’t forget to have fun along the way. After all, this is about YOU.

Dawn Trottier, University of Idaho Senior
College of Natural Resources
Resource Recreation & Tourism


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