Combat to campus: Veteran continues service in SGA


Jessica Green

SGA Senator Michael Bearth interacts with other student senators and Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall at an SGA meeting in the Rhatigan Student Center.

Veterans who go back to school have already lived life — a life defined by obligation, responsibility, and often death. For Student Government Association Veteran Senator Michael Bearth, his military life was structured around routine, leadership, and service. But so is his academic life.

Bearth is just one of nearly 1,000 veterans and their dependents involved in campus organizations and leadership roles across Wichita State. The addition of the veteran senator position to student government during the 59th SGA session is an example of increased veteran involvement on campus.

Bearth was appointed in the 60th session by former Student Government President Paige Hungate and again in the 61st session by current President Kenon Brinkley. The veterans senator position for the 62nd session will be elected by the student body during the spring semester.

Bearth, who originally dropped out of college to join the Marines, said he sees his returning college experience as an opportunity to give back.

As a senator, Bearth said he works with administration to develop protocols to protect veteran personal information from accidental release. In addition to SGA, he’s involved in the Student Veterans Organization, the Academics Committee, Student Involvement, and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars WSU chapter.

“The university has really given me a lot and created a lot of opportunities for me,” Bearth said. “I believe that if you get something, then you need to give something back.”

Through his role in SGA, Bearth said he hopes to rebuild and establish partnerships with the university and veterans. One of his goals is work with the Student Veterans Organization to inform the campus community on what means to be a veteran and what services are available.

“I am fully aware that this is a two-way street — it is hard to invest in something that is not that interested in you,” Bearth said. “That is why I am attempting to increase this sense of investment on both sides — the university towards veterans and veterans towards the university.”

“One of the ways I will be attempting to accomplish this is simply get the veteran community more active with other organizations and groups across campus.”

Gabriel Fonseca, assistant director for Student Involvement, said he is happy that veterans are being represented and getting involved. Fonseca said he thinks student veterans are a unique population that need to be represented in SGA.

“[Bearth] cares about veterans and students on campus and their experiences,” Fonseca said. “His time in the military and his service transferred into what he does with veteran students here on campus.”

“He tries really hard to speak on their behalf — support them and make sure that their voices are heard. He advocates hard for them from a genuine place.”

SGA Business Senator Ciaban Peterson is also a Marine Corps veteran. Peterson said he thinks veterans, like Bearth, provide a lot of value to WSU because of their experience.

“As president of the Student Veterans Organization, I’ve seen everything veterans do on campus,” Peterson said. “Veterans coming out of the military are trying to find what value they provide and those at school are already trying to find that. Leadership positions help them find their value and contribute to something.”

Military veterans provide more than a diversified student body. They provide a sense of leadership, pride, and patriotism both in and out of the classroom — within student organizations and other student activities while on campus. Bearth expresses appreciation for the attention he receives on campus.

“When someone thanks me for my service, I turn around and thank them for their support,” Bearth said. “Without citizens being interested or invested in the military, it wouldn’t have a purpose. Thank you for your support because otherwise my service would mean nothing.”