“My Transition” #33: Ginger Peterman — US Army to University Researcher
Ginger has found that the secret to healing the human body both physically and mentally may be through tiny machines.
Once you realize the power of involvement and veteran’s willingness to serve and help each other, you will never be alone again.
Syracuse, NY — After serving in the US Army, Ginger enrolled in college and ultimately ended up studying biomedical engineering. She’s found that veterans organizations can be tremendously helpful. Her goal is to help veterans find the keys to healing.
DJS: You got a full education at Syracuse, was that related to the wealth of their IVMF offerings?
Nope, didn’t hear about them until I won $6000 in funding for prosthetics in an idea competition. Then, Mike Haynie walked me over to Jared Lyon to sign me up for SU EBV 2012. He seemed concerned that they were recruiting vets for EBV and here I am, sending him an email for advice because he was a veteran and professor of entrepreneurship. So, I learned about the IVMF after spending two years at SU.
DJS: Do you have advice for other veterans considering college?
Connect with the SVA organization on the campus you are thinking about attending. They will help you every step of the way. SU has an extremely supportive military friendly climate. Consider going to a school that is ranked within the ‘best’ for veterans to attend. They will have the most supportive administration and staff dedicated to our unique needs.
Here is a list of top veteran-friendly schools.
Connect with the SVA organization on the campus you are thinking about attending. They will help you every step of the way.
DJS: How did you land your current job at Syracuse as a Research Assistant?
Funny story — another transition story I just conquered. The short story is my connections. I’ve been at SU for 7 years now. I was three semesters in to a PhD in Bioengineering when I developed my purpose in life and had to walk away from a sure thing in order to pursue the harder, challenging, but ‘right’ thing for me. I met with everyone I know — faculty, deans, even the chancellor!
I basically forced my way in and didn’t let the fact that I missed the deadline to apply stop me either! I had to pursue my goals. I never ever quit. I got in. It wasn’t easy. Life is NEVER easy. If you’re comfortable, then you might not be challenging yourself enough!
Life is NEVER easy. If you’re comfortable, then you might not be challenging yourself enough!
DJS: Did you use any veteran networking strategy to land any of your jobs? If so, how did you make those connections?
Yes. All the organizations — IVMF, RWB, K9s for Warriors, Team Rubicon, SVA, dryhootch, etc.
DJS: What skills from the military translated into your job and made you successful in your current role?
Teamwork and leadership, hands down, helps a lot for student group projects. I used to do it all by myself. Isolation is a way to survive (and a living suicide) but no way to truly live. Also prepared me for the multicultural collaboration of a University, because there is so much diversity in the military
DJS: What was the hardest piece of transition?
Lack of support — no network — too busy surviving.
DJS: What one piece of advice do you have for anyone reading this?
Veteran organizations have been my ticket to freedom. They are more supportive than active military (forced) networks. You can decide to participate based on your needs, interests, and location. Once you realize the power of involvement and veteran’s willingness to serve and help each other, you will never be alone again.
Veteran organizations have been my ticket to freedom. They are more supportive than active military (forced) networks.
DJS: So, it sounds like you’ve got a really interesting background. Is there a longer story here?
GP: Yes, there is. Here’s my long story:
I’ve always placed high value on education. It remains my golden ticket. I reached an early independence, being a child raised by fun but unstable parents.
By 14, I was practically emancipated, working for rent, gas, and food while earning honors in high school. By 18, I was employed full-time doing cryogenic component construction at Fermilab and studying Engineering Science in the honors program at College of DuPage. By 23, I had lost my job with tuition assistance and needed change to keep me on the path to becoming an engineer.
I took the Army recruiter calling as an opportunity. I enlisted. I was free from the dread of responsibility to self that I’d experienced from an unusually young age. The Army gave me more than financial means to pay for college, it afforded my ability to embrace uncertainty with courage and prevail. It also helped me realize that I can’t do everything on my own.
The Army gave me more than financial means to pay for college, it afforded my ability to embrace uncertainty with courage and prevail.
During my Iraq deployment, I was a supply truck driver who also did female search missions alongside the infantrymen and pulled guard duty at the ammunition storage area and at one of the FOB (forward operating base) perimeter gates. My military experience prepared me for success at Syracuse University. During team projects, a student veteran inherently realizes the leadership role — steps up and guides the team to project completion despite an initial uncertainty of solution.
I completed my BS Bioengineering with two faculty-nominated awards and a gift of entrepreneurial spirit. Then, I went on to earn an MS in Engineering Management. In the second semester of my bioengineering doctoral program, I discovered my life’s purpose is to help forge a tool that can heal the body from suffering PTSD. To achieve this, I must walk away from the comfort of my private office and nearly completed program requirements at the engineering college in transition to a new PhD field of study, information science and technology at SU’s iSchool. They offer a way to create this weapon to destroy the demons of our past.
Rather than accepting my diagnosis of PTSD as defeat, I use it as inspiration to succeed in leading myself and my fellow veterans to a better place in life. Strong-willed independence, I’ve learned, leads to small individual gains but failure as a team. That’s just one military lesson I aim to use towards success in my future research.
Rather than accepting my diagnosis of PTSD as defeat, I use it as inspiration to succeed in leading myself and my fellow veterans to a better place in life.
Since discovering that tiny machines can navigate and heal the human body, I’ve been inspired to study engineering. Through my career aspirations and MST-female representative voice in creative nonfiction writing, I hope to inspire others to prevail despite the extra weight of burden they carry. I’m dedicated to revolutionizing mental and behavioral health care by supplying bioengineering insights to an immersive, multidisciplinary doctoral study of Information Science and Technology at Syracuse University’s iSchool.
Since discovering that tiny machines can navigate and heal the human body, I’ve been inspired to study engineering.
Beyond the dissertation, I’ve discovered life’s purpose is to refine its’ quality, a task that requires a tangible, interactive social network. I’ve been active in the Syracuse community since 2010, and have experienced tremendous support from both local and national Veterans’ Service Organizations. I want to acknowledge and harness that supportive network.
First, I will recruit and gather with the veteran community for participatory design and creation of this proposed technology, Solo, that may serve best as a medical device. I will collaborate with expert faculty, promising students, experienced clinicians, involved policy makers, and others in a community-effort to reach the lives of many, starting with veterans stigmatized by PTSD.
I believe that quantifiably tracking individual, repetitive triggers and the consequences that follow, i.e. instances of disaster, growth, and resilience will reveal individualized mechanistic behaviors that can be harvested for feedback in this therapeutic, emotionally-intelligent technology. Research towards an understanding of uniquely damaging personal interactions can suggest ways to intervention of repeat occurrences. Encouraging social interaction over avoidance (a mental suicide which keeps disabled people isolated) will bring joy to daily life. This research-driven technology promises the human experience, improved: A future where disability inspires change toward universal accessibility, eliminating barriers to individual excellence.
Ginger Peterman is a US Army veteran and entrepreneur. Her entrepreneurial plan is to serve disadvantaged, yet promising, individuals in order to improve their quality of life. Her research aims to nudge resilience in PTSD by empowering veterans with technology. She hopes to identify gaps in veteran service organizations that hold potential for growth in accessibility, redesigning for capability of female veterans’ success in entrepreneurship and career-based endeavors.
She is currently a Graduate research Assistant at Syracuse University.
The Heroes Movement — The Heroes’ Movement is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing free strength training and conditioning to ANY veteran of the United States Armed Forces.
Institute for Veterans and Military Families — The IVMF is higher education’s first interdisciplinary academic institute, singularly focused on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families.
Student Veterans of America — SVA’s mission is to provide military veterans with the resources, support, and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.
Dryhootch — Dryhootch is a place where Veterans can gather informally in a coffee house; a safe, comfortable, drug-and-alcohol-free environment.
Are you interested in sharing your story of transition? Or are you a military transition specialist who would like to share some tips? Send me an email at MilitaryTransitionStories@gmail.com
The goal of this series is to bridge the military-civilian divide in three ways: 1) Highlight the incredible skills and value that military veterans of all generations and backgrounds bring into the workplace. 2) Help transitioning veterans understand their true value and therefore aim as high as possible in their employment and educational goals. 3) Discuss the common struggles, pitfalls and indicators of success in veteran transition, in order to provide better transition assistance from both military and civilian sides.