A senior at Queens University in Charlotte who raised awareness of students who are veterans on campus was named the 2018 Student Veteran of the Year. The Student Veterans of America awarded 25-year-old Chris Rolph the honor at its conference in San Antonio this weekend.
The former U.S. Air Force serviceman and reservist, cofounded an SVA chapter on Queens’s campus last year and serves as the organization’s president.
“We’re often lumped in with everybody else by faculty and others and that’s okay sometimes, but the diversity of thought that we bring to the class should be recognized too,” Rolph said.
Queens officials credit Rolph with the success of the campus SVA chapter. Rolph spearheaded a campaign to secure a grant for office space for the chapter so student who are veterans would have a place to meet and hold events.
“Home Depot gave us a $6,700 grant that we used to buy furniture and refurbish a room in a building in the center of campus that the school let us use,” he said. “We opened it up on Veteran’s Day last year. We use it for professional development, lunches, we bring in other groups to talk to us and it’s a place for veterans to come and study.”
Rolph says helping student veterans feel comfortable on college campuses is one issue he plans to focus on in travels this year as the SVA Student of the Year.
“We’ve done well integrating with others at Queens, but in some other campus environments, some students face the stigma that others assume we all have PTSD and have been shot at and often that’s not the case,” Rolph said. “We’re normal just like everybody else and like doing many of the same things that other students do. Veteran students are a positive and that’s the message I want to get out there.”
Rolph describes himself as a Navy "brat." He moved to Charlotte from Germany to attend Queens. He was in the reserves until the spring of last year when he left to work on his bachelor’s degree in business administration full time. He’s set to graduate in May and says he hopes to land a job that keeps him in Charlotte.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article referred to “veteran students.” The article has been updated to reflect the way the organization refers to its members: “student veterans.”