Wednesday, October 18, 2023

As the University of Iowa continues to support the mental health of everyone on campus, a new embedded counselor this fall is dedicated to serving those who served their country.

Chuck Xander, an Iowa native and combat veteran, began working this semester in a newly created position as embedded counselor focused on Veterans and military-connected students on campus. His office is in the Iowa Veteran Education, Transition, and Support (IVETS) office in Calvin Hall.

Xander graduated from Green Mountain-Garwin High School in Garwin, Iowa, before attending William Penn University to earn a degree in the human services field. He then enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard 234th Signal Battalion and was deployed to Iraq in 2003-04. He then received a master’s degree in mental health counseling from the University of Northern Iowa and has more than 20 years of mental health counseling experience.

He says he discovered he fit well into human services work while in school. He found a love of helping young people during an internship working with juveniles, where he saw his words and empathy could make a difference.

Xander also says his status as a Veteran allows him to better aid others who have served.

“I can talk to them and have empathy for what they are going through,” Xander says. “I can help calm them down and help them process what they’ve gone through. When you’re in the military, you’re generally told not to deal with emotions, so a lot of Veterans do not want to share their feelings. I can understand, validate their feelings, and empathize with them.”

The UI has more than 600 students who are Veterans, in addition to more than 160 National Guard and Reserve members, and more than 50 Air Force and Army ROTC cadets.

Because of his Veteran status, Xander has already helped students feel more comfortable approaching him with their challenges or fears. Xander—who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, grief, and communication skills—says Veterans may be struggling with the trauma they experienced while serving their country.

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