Five Emory veteran alumni spoke with Goizueta Associate Professor of Finance Jeffrey Rosenweig about how their Emory education helped them weather the pandemic to an audience of around fifty viewers on Nov. 11.

“Emory has long supported the health care needs of service veterans, changing lives through initiatives such as Emory’s Healthcare Veterans Program, Wounded Warriors Project, the Warrior Care Network and a partnership with the Atlanta Veterans Medical Center,” University President Gregory L. Fenves said. “Emory’s treatment of veterans speaks to our mission to educate and serve humanity.”

Rosenweig praised Fenves’ efforts to listen to veteran and student voices, pointing specifically to Fenves’ previous initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin that made the institution a leading university for veterans.

“He’s already met with our student veteran leaders here, which I think shows a great dedication to veterans and to growing Emory as a veterans association,” Rosenweig said.

Lieutenant General Ken Keen, who served in the United States Army and now teaches at Goizueta Business School, reviewed the history of Veterans Day. He explained how Congress passed a resolution in 1926 to mark Armistice Day as a holiday recognizing service members of all wars, and a proclamation by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 gave the day its current name.

Students had a conversation in 1995 regarding the importance of informing the student body about the values of being a veteran. Rosenweig and Keen consequently founded the Goizueta Veterans Association, and the group has since expanded into the Emory Veterans Association.

The association seeks to “promote, inform and support Emory’s military connected student community while they’re enrolled and after they’ve completed their studies.” The organization helps veterans applying to undergraduate or graduate programs in the academic enrollment and financial aid process, with 190 Emory veterans receiving the Yellow Ribbon scholarship and over $1.6 million in grants to date.

Chief Operating Officer for the City of Atlanta Jon Keen (11B) discussed the pandemic’s difficulties and how his Emory education and military service equipped him with the skills to overcome them.

“The military gave me the confidence to deal with this crisis and lead from a place of optimism even in very stressful situations, and my time at Emory has strengthened my confidence and ability to lead in various circumstances,” Keen said.

Lieutenant Commander Felicia Warren (99Ox, 01C, 08PH), who is now a senior public health advisor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the importance of public health regulations and health care improvement. She also stressed the need to listen to marginalized voices.

“We’ve seen how COVID-19 has deepened existing health disparities and witnessed horrific acts of violence against people of color, but we’ve also seen hopeful calls for equality and the audacious rejection of racism and injustice,” Warren said. “The convergence of these constructs have forced us into critical self-reflection and dialogue across the nation and around the world.”

Crediting Emory for helping shape her value system, Lieutenant Colonel Carlissa Carson (08L), a staff judge advocate in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard, credited Emory for shaping her value system.

Looking back on her 17 years of service, Carson listed perspective as the most important skill she learned during her service, saying, “With the proper perspective, you can remain calm and collected, which leads to better decision making, particularly in times of crisis.”

She also named empathy as the most crucial leadership and human trait.

“When a leader expresses empathy, she’s more equipped to motivate rather than dictate and inspire rather than just simply instruct,” Carson said. “If we look at great leaders through history, empathy has been a hallmark of transformative rather than traditional leadership.”

Distinguishing the military from other organizations for its provision of deliberate, extensive training, Keen noted that the institution constantly pushed them to take advantage of available resources.

To welcome service members back into civilian life, active duty officer in special operations Raye Perez (20B) encouraged organizations and individuals to create an environment that engages and challenges these veterans, allowing them to continue to look for their purpose in life.

“Service is incredibly admirable and taking the time to listen to those who have served, listening to their stories and understanding where they’re coming from are small but tangible things that you can do,” Warren added.