NACOGDOCHES, Texas — After serving four years in the U.S. Marines and in various other higher education roles, Stesha Colby-Lynch has been named program director for Stephen F. Austin State University’s Veterans Resource Center.
With 10 years of experience in higher education, including experience working for the Texas Veterans Commission, Texas Christian University and Texas State Technical College, Colby-Lynch has a well-rounded understanding of what higher education can look like for military veterans and their dependents at SFA.
“I would love to see the veteran student body feel more connected to the whole university,” Colby-Lynch said. “Research shows if a student feels connected to the university, they are more likely to stay and graduate, and they are more likely to do well. I’d love to see that for my students.”
Since 2010, SFA’s VRC has provided a space for veterans, veteran dependents, and ROTC members to gather, socialize and form relationships that provide networks of support. This space is a hub for veteran programming that builds connections with veteran faculty and community members, as well as provides access to veterans' resources at SFA and through outside agencies.
“I am in the process of trying to increase awareness of our services. It’s hard for some veterans to seek the help they need, so we have a population of veterans on campus who aren’t using any benefits,” Colby-Lynch said. “I’m trying to get them the resources they need and include them in future programming.”
Colby-Lynch’s goals include strengthening and diversifying the VRC’s programming. This will involve working with other SFA organizations to create stronger relationships for veteran students to benefit from those resources and connections.
“One of my goals is to increase visibility, not only for people to know about the center but for folks to see veterans on campus as part of the campus rather than ‘othered,’” she said, speaking of the feeling minority populations can have of feeling excluded. “Some of the students do feel othered because they are not traditional students. We have our youngest veterans who enlisted at 18, went to boot camp, just got out of service and now are about 22. Our older veterans are about to turn 50, so we have a wide range of generations represented at SFA.”
Colby-Lynch oversees federal veteran benefit certifications and overall programming. New programs she’s implemented include yoga, taught twice a week by SFA veteran students in the VRC, and art therapy. Some days, students might even see Hercules, Colby-Lynch’s gentle service dog she brings to create a comforting environment for all who use the center.
Colby-Lynch reports to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“We are excited to welcome Stesha as the new program director of the Veterans Resource Center,” said Dr. Michara DeLaney-Fields, chief diversity officer. “Having an experienced higher education veteran resource will help our veteran students succeed and enhance their college experience.”
Though she is still getting to know everyone at SFA and the Nacogdoches community, Colby-Lynch is gearing up to make the VRC the best it can be.
Colby-Lynch received her Associate of Arts in general education from Tarrant County Community College and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and sociology from TCU. She moved to Nacogdoches with her three rescue dogs and her husband, Sean, who worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 10 years and is now a contractor at SFA. He will begin taking classes as a forestry major in the fall.