From Veteran to Graduate

Stefney Dunson

Stefney Dunson as he looked while deployed in Afghanistan.

In March 2009, Chief Master Sgt. Stefney Dunson was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In May, Air Force veteran Dunson walked across UNC's commencement stage to accept his diploma for a master's degree in Clinical Counseling.

"I chose the clinical counseling program because during my 28 years of service, counseling was something I was required to do daily," said Dunson, who did his coursework at UNC's center in Colorado Springs. "Whether it was at home station or deployed in a combat area, people needed someone to talk to about their issues, concerns and problems. Choosing this program was a natural fit for me."

After joining the military in 1982, Dunson was stationed in locations all over the world, including Italy, Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan, where he led an embedded training team and added the Bronze Star to his more than 20 medals recognizing his service.

"An embedded training team is assigned to work directly with Afghan security forces [to prepare them to conduct independent anti-terrorism operations]. I had 250 Air Force, Navy and Army personnel assigned to me," Dunson said. "We also had assignments to mentor Afghan senior government, military and police officials. As the chief of the team, my responsibilities included assigning and developing teams, coordinating missions, overseeing security, training and safety."

Dunson currently works as the site director for Troy University in Colorado Springs, where he recruits and provides support to students. He's also completing an internship for his degree at the Rockies Counseling Center, the student clinic attached to the University of the Rockies, a graduate school also in Colorado Springs. Dunson is one of only a few students from outside schools allowed to complete their internships at the clinic.

"It had such a positive impact on my life because at the time I was retiring from the military, I was knee deep in my studies and I had a great group of people surrounding me," Dunson said.

Dunson hopes to become a licensed professional counselor and pursue his doctoral degree. His 18- year-old daughter plans to follow in his footsteps and transfer to UNC from Columbia College in Chicago to pursue her Clinical Counseling degree.

"It was an honor and privilege serving my country and though we take this one day to stop and recognize those who have served us, let's not forget the thousands of young men and women who are serving today," Dunson said. "Especially those who are serving in harm's way. May they all return home safe to their friends, family and loved ones."

UNC offers graduate programs in school counseling, clinical counseling and couples and family therapy at the Greeley campus and in its Denver and Colorado Springs locations. For more information, visit the programs' website.

- Elizabeth Same, Journalism Major

Veterans Day at UNC
Operation Thank a Vet, sponsored by UNC's Veteran Services office, gave out more than 100 T-shirts to students, faculty and staff who have served in a branch of the United States military. Veterans are encouraged to wear the yellow shirts with a UNC Bear logo on the front and ‘veteran' on the back on Veterans Day so that they can be identified by other members of the university community who want to thank them or give them a pat on the back in recognition of their service.

A group of UNC students will attend Greeley's Veterans Day ceremony at Bittersweet Park and invite two veterans to join them after the ceremony for complimentary lunch at Holmes Dining Hall.