November 8, 2022
Finding another mission: a veteran helping veterans
“I noticed a lot of veterans needed help,” said Jason Chapman, a retired E-6 Petty Officer First Class with the U.S. Navy. “I thought the best way to do that was a one-on-one approach through social work.”
Chapman is a Duluthian who served from 1993-2013. He is currently in the Master of Social Work program at The College of St. Scholastica, where he also received his bachelor’s earlier this year.
“I needed to find another mission,” Chapman said, “and I always wanted to go back to school.” In 2018, he enrolled at Lake Superior College, receiving an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences before continuing St. Scholastica in 2020.
Speaking of his decision to go into social work, Chapman recalled an early source of inspiration. “I had a high school guidance counselor who served six tours in Vietnam who was also in a social work program.”
Taking a values-based approach
A lifelong Catholic, Chapman was interested in St. Scholastica due to its faith-based roots. “The Benedictine values are the values that I go by,” he said.
St. Scholastica is also proud to be a strong supporter of veterans and has a dedicated team to help ensure the success of veterans in higher education. Among this team is Jack Lee, who is himself a military veteran with a degree in social work. Lee is a mentor for student veterans and assists with orientation and reestablishing them in civilian life. This includes advocating for veterans with faculty and staff at the school, serving as a source of familiarity and identifying where any cracks and fissures may be for veterans in the civilian world.
“He props up those fissures with healthy habits and serves as an example for others,” Chapman said. “He’s already been through it — he’s a veteran who completed the social work program, so it’s nice to be able to drop by his office and pick his brain.”
For coursework, Chapman has found some interesting overlaps between what he’s learning and what he has experienced himself.
“We learn about ourselves and each other,” he said. “When we speak about mindfulness, we talk about centering ourselves, thinking clearly and not tunnel visioning; to live in the now.”
Dedicated to helping others
In addition to being a “lifer,” or one who retires from the military after 20+ years, Chapman is also a husband and father of two boys, whom he noted are very supportive of his mission. When speaking of pursuing a college degree as a non-traditional student, Chapman didn’t find it overwhelming, but more of an “acclimation” to the contemporary college lifestyle.
“I think the military raised the bar for me. Five in the morning isn’t early for me, and we have a saying in the Navy: ‘We work until Zero Dark Thirty,’ which means we work until the job is done.”
Beyond work ethic, Chapman also noted another strength that the military has offered him in regards to civilian life generally and social work specifically. “We work with all walks of life in the military, all identities,” he said, “which really prepares you for the real world where you will see that again.”
For his future aspirations, both immediate and long-term, Chapman reiterated his mission, “I want to cut my teeth at the VA,” he says. “Eventually, I want to start my own practice helping veterans. I believe it takes a veteran to help a veteran.”