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ASU class connects students with veterans

Partnership with Veterans Heritage Project allows students to help preserve a veteran's legacy

Three men sitting at a banquet table wearing suits and smiling

ASU students Cole Nehen, George Padilla and Anthony Schultz attend the Veterans Heritage Project's "Saluting Stories of Service Gala" on March 2. Courtesy photo

April 23, 2024

A brand-new class offered this spring through Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is making an impact on students and military veterans.

The course, Veterans Oral History: Lessons in Leadership and Civil Responsibility, is taught by U.S. Army Ret. Col. Bruce Pagel.

In partnership with award-winning nonprofit Veterans Heritage Project, students preserve a veteran’s legacy in the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress and in the annual hardbound book "Since You Asked." Supplemental readings and lectures regarding civic responsibility, the military and leadership provide additional perspective. Veterans are publicly honored and the students’ work is celebrated at the the project's annual community reception and book signing. Students and veterans receive complimentary copies of the book, with veterans signing their story for event guests. 

Students have the option to choose a veteran to interview or be matched with a veteran interested in participating in the experience.

An older and younger man standing side by side smiling
Gavin Kurtz (right) and his grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran. Courtesy photo

Student Gavin Kurtz, a business entrepreneurship major, chose to interview his grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran.

“It was a great opportunity to get to know more about his service and just being able to spend time with him and create a story for him," Kurtz said. "Every veteran deserves to have their story told.”

The Veterans Heritage Project assists students step by step in the oral history and writing process.

History major George Padilla was paired with Professor Ryan Shaw, a professor of practice in history and strategy, managing director of strategic initiatives, and senior advisor to Arizona State University President Michael Crow.

“(The project) has been doing this for decades now and has streamlined the whole process for students to easily follow,” Padilla said.

Student Cole Nehen is majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership. He originally signed up for the class because he needed a one-credit course, but ended up gaining much more.

“I wholeheartedly recommend this class to my fellow students. The experience of interviewing veterans is not just educational — it's life changing," he said. "The opportunity to become a published author while still in college is a testament to the unique value of this class.”

“This first cohort of students was enthusiastic, serious about the work and very respectful of not only their veteran’s service but recognized the full breadth and depth of what it means to raise your right hand, put on a uniform and serve your country, in war and out," Pagel said. "We emphasized lessons in leadership, the bonds that form based on a shared military experience and the foundation military service lays for success later in life.”

“Students in this class have expressed how much they’ve enjoyed this unique opportunity to learn about leadership from Ret. Col. Bruce A. Pagel, as well as the veteran they are interviewing," academic advisor Kristin Farnsworth said. "Writing and recording a veteran’s story has taught them leadership and history beyond what they can learn in a typical classroom setting. I’ve had students ask me, 'How many times can I take this course?'"

The one-credit class can be taken up to three times, and Pagel is already looking forward to working with new students this fall. Students can enroll now by visiting the ASU class link.

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