In a university-wide effort to provide an active voice for student veterans and military-connected students—including military family members and Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets—a group of student veterans representing all five Pepperdine schools have launched the Pepperdine Veterans (PeppVet) Council. The leadership committee, launched in Fall 2020, focuses on developing new initiatives to help ensure these nontraditional students feel valued, included, and supported throughout their academic journey.
The Pepperdine Veterans Council is led by Samantha Jones and Brandon Olson. Jones Graduated Seaver in Spring 2021 as a SportsMed Major and is currently enrolled in the Pepperdine JD/MBA 4-year program. Jones is an 8 year Navy Veteran. She accomplished a lot in the Navy, received awards, ran a helicopter repair shop with 23 people and had record production of helicopters. The sailors under her command received awards and came to her for advice often. She decided she wanted to go back to college as part of her long term dream to give back to veterans by increasing their financial knowledge. Jones served as the Senior VP of PeppVet last year. She is proud of what the organization has accomplished.
Brandon Olson is the VP of the Pepperdine Veterans Council. He served as an army Paratrooper for 3.5 years including in Operation Atlantic Resolve 2016 where he was deployed to Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland for 6 months. His team patrolled the Russian border to put pressure on Russian forces and deter aggression. After the military, Olson lived in a van for a year and went back to community college raising his GPA from a 1.9 to 3.3. He is majoring in English with the hopes of becoming a professor. He is using his leadership role to bolster Veteran presence at Pepperdine.
Pepperdine Veterans Council works at impacting the Pepperdine community. PeppVet during Stepforward Day they sent 1,000 art kits to children of military parents. They also set up booths to make Thank You Cards for Veterans in 2022.
In the future, PeppVet plans involve more network activities, a monthly hike, and working with the American Legion where they will be lighting up the Tower during Veterans Week. PeppVet is able to accomplish what it does with the support of the Pepperdine community. Olson and Jones both agree that Pepperdine works hard towards helping veterans and making them feel welcome on campus. “They listen to veterans,” [it’s] truly heartwarming, they are such a resource of knowledge for us,” Jones says. According to Jones, the help from Pepperdine extends to veteran professors too. Olson agrees, “Pepperdine has given me a community,” and says that what makes Pepperdine stand out among other universities is a sense of belonging.