A Salute to an Extraordinary Student Veteran

By Tony Phifer

Heather Kent grew up in Fort Collins and graduated from one of the city’s high schools in 2001 before she and a friend enlisted in the Navy.

Heather Kent, shortly after joining the U.S. Navy

But after a 5-year stint serving her country, getting married and living in Arizona for several years, she longed for home and moved with her husband, John, to Fort Collins, where her grandparents met while attending Colorado State University. Still, Kent admits that, despite her love for her hometown and CSU, she was more than a little nervous when she decided to enroll.

“My first day on campus was 2017 and, like a lot of student veterans, I experienced a lot of anxiety,” said Kent, 37. “You look around and there are very few students in your age group, who have had similar experiences. It can be a difficult adjustment.”

Kent found a home in CSU’s Adult Learner and Veteran Services office, where many of CSU’s more than 1,000 veterans congregate over free coffee, studies, and a shared background. She immediately felt a connection and wanted to share it with others, so she joined the Student Veterans Organization and this year became an ALVS peer advisor, helping other student veterans make the challenging transition.

“ALVS made things much more manageable for me, and I wanted to share that experience with others,” she said.

Kent arrived at CSU with a baking and pastry degree from The Art Institute of Phoenix but wanted to go into a field that more closely matched her strengths and gave her a chance to earn more money. She had always been drawn to the STEM subjects in high school, so she started out studying at Front Range Community College in the associate of science program before transferring over to the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, where she’s majoring in chemical and biological engineering with a minor in environmental engineering.

A proud Ram with a bright future.

Academic achievement had always been important to her so she was delighted to discover SALUTE, the Veterans National Honor Society, on campus. SALUTE was created at CSU in 2009 and now has chapters at college and universities across the country that recognize academic achievement by student veterans. Kent is president of the CSU chapter.

“SALUTE is another way to let veterans know they’re doing well,” she said. “There’s this perception that we won’t adjust well and that we won’t succeed in college, but it has been shown that student veterans are actually higher achievers than nonveterans. Veterans are very goal-oriented, very focused, and SALUTE is a good way to recognize that mindset of excellence.”

Kent graduates in spring 2021 and hopes to work for a company with an environmental engineering team.

Support SALUTE and Veterans Services

SALUTE is the only national honor society recognizing and honoring the service and the scholastic achievements of student-veterans. Learn more and support SALUTE today.

Adult Learner & Veteran Services supports increased academic achievement and holistic development for all adult learners, including veterans and student parents. Learn more and support ALVS today.