Sarah Sell serves veterans


Reid Linot

Sarah Sell, director of veteran student services, poses for a photo in her office.

Sarah Sell grew up in a military family and later joined the armed services herself, so connecting with veterans on campus as director of Veteran Student Services comes naturally to her.

“The military is a culture within itself,” Sell said. “If you haven’t served in it, it can be difficult to understand. It’s easier for a veteran to connect with another veteran.”

The chocolate on her desk is readily available to anyone who walks into her office, but Sell serves mostly post-9/11 veterans.

“The military and Veterans Administration are incredibly complex systems,” Sell said. “I am their point of contact for whatever. I’m kind of their ‘Google’ to figure out whatever it may be. Everyday is different than the day before.”

Sell helps veterans with everything from combat stresses to disabilities, but sometimes her biggest job is just to interact with and understand veterans.

“Understanding where someone is coming from helps them in the process,” Sell said.

Sell’s understanding comes from personal experience. She has been in the U.S. Air National Guard for 16 years, serving in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and in Baghdad during Iraqi Freedom.

During her time in Baghdad, Sell’s process of earning her masters degree in counseling was interrupted. Now, Sell is continuing her degree while she serves as director of Veteran Student Services.

Her job is not condusive to a standard workday. On any given day, she could meet with a handful of veterans or as many as 30.

“I can’t answer every question, but I can figure out who to go to get an answer,” Sell said.

Jerald Ashton is an Iraq veteran who served in the Marines, the Air Force and the Army. He works at the front desk of Veteran Student Services in the office on the first floor of Grace Wilkie Hall.

Ashton said he credits Sell with creating an environment in which veterans can relax more than other places on campus.

“She was able to give us an area where we could be ourselves,” Ashton said. “This became our community. We’re all equal.”

Tori Anstine, who served as a builder in the Navy, was deployed to Guam, Afghanistan, Djbouti, and Japan over five years before working as a recruiter for another three years.

“[Veteran Student Services] saved me my first year at WSU,” Anstine said. “As a vet, we have a different language and attitude I guess.”

Anstine said she lost the group psychology of the military when she came to WSU, but Veteran Student Services helped her gain it back.

“You’re on a team and [then] you are no longer on a team, and this place fills that team environment,” she said.

For Anistine, Ashton, and other veterans in the WSU community, Sell provides an invaluable service.

“It’s meeting with them, building relationships, which is the most important part of what I do,” Sell said.