Joe Kerstetter Continues to Serve as an Advocate for the Student Veteran Population

Before coming to Stockton, Joe Kerstetter, a junior Social Work major, served for four years in the United States Marine Corps. Kerstetter was a mortar man and served one tour in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. He received two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, one of which has a combat distinguishing device, which denotes heroism in combat.

Kerstetter enrolled at Stockton as soon as he finished his enlistment.

Joe Kerstetter Photo

Joe Kerstetter poses with a local family while serving in Iraq in July 2008.

At Stockton, Kerstetter is president of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO), advocating for the student veteran population on Stockton’s campus.

“I ensure that the needs of student veterans are met,” he said. “I was able to successfully advocate for a larger veterans’ lounge with the help of Tom O’Donnell, assistant dean of students, and Dr. (Dee) McNeely-Greene, associate vice president for Student Affairs.”

The lounge played a vital role in allowing the SVO to grow and become active on campus. It increased membership and participation within the organization.

Under Kerstetter’s leadership, the Student Veterans Organization also hosted the Combat Paper Project which allowed veterans to write, talk, and create artwork that pertained to their military experiences. The veterans then displayed their artwork and spoke about their experiences to Stockton students.

Kerstetter’s most recent accomplishment is bringing to Stockon’s campus a counselor trained in treating conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I was part of the search committee for the hiring of the counselor and we had to ensure a strict criteria was met,” Kerstetter said. “There is a stigma around any mental illness and those who seek help are often looked at differently. I have  encouraged the veteran population to utilize this service, and to support others who do, because it is available to them.”

During his time at Stockton, Kerstetter has had many great professors, but he feels two in particular were outstanding.

“Professor (William) Reynolds, associate professor of Social Work, taught an incredible Introduction to Social Work class which led me to become a Social Work major. He has been an exceptional preceptor and has ensured I stay on the correct path,” Kerstetter said.

“Professor (Guia) Apostle, assistant professor of Social Work, has also been a driving force behind my interest in the Social Work field,” he said. “She keeps her classes entertaining and uses examples from the field to create a classroom environment that encourages students to think critically.”

In his free time, Kerstetter enjoys the outdoors. He loves to swim in the ocean and, in the summer, he can usually be found at the beach.

Joe Kerstetter, originally from Egg Harbor Township, NJ, is set to obtain a B.S. in Social Work in Spring 2015. He hopes to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He plans to use the skills learned at Stockton to help veterans reintegrate into civilian communities and particularly in the world of higher education.

“Stockton has given me and other veterans an environment to thrive in where we can continue to serve our community,” he said.