VA Secretary returns to his alma mater to reach out to student veterans


Andres Fuentes

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, A’88, (center) sits with Moon Landrieu (left), former mayor of New Orleans, and Dean of the College of Law Madeleine Landrieu (right). Wilkie returned to his alma mater to discuss with student-veterans and alumni. Photo credit: Andres Fuentes

Andres Fuentes


Instead of all the pomp and circumstance that comes with a homecoming, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie humbly came back to his alma mater to hear the issues and worries of veterans.

On Oct. 31, Wilkie, A’88, visited Greenville Hall to conduct a dialogue with student veterans and law students.

Ideas and concerns were addressed in front of Wilkie and Dean of the College of Law Madeleine Landrieu.

“New Orleans is a diverse city when it comes to diverse ideas and perspectives,” Wilkie said. “You had people in there who had a military background who were just beginning to experience veterans affairs and they had fresh perspectives of what it means to them. It’s wonderful to hear.”

Students felt that Wilkie provided more clarity towards veterans affairs.

“For him wanting to reach out into the community and really give feedback and new perspective on what’s going on…I think that’s a good sign of a leader,” Craig Arceneaux, music industry sophomore and student-veteran, said. “A lot of people are used to top-down tactics as far as the VA is concerned. I think it’s a good sign of leadership, trying to get feedback from a bottom up perspective.”

Alumni also found the meeting beneficial. Margaret Bystryk, A’17, is a 1st Lt. and works as a legal assistance attorney at Fort Gordon, Georgia. She came back to her alma mater to learn from what Wilkie had to say.

“I liked how the secretary explained how this is a holistic thing that we can start applying,” she said. “(We) are looking at what we’re doing right now, what we’ve done in the past and how do we improve that going forward.”

Wilkie is no stranger to grass roots discussions. This is the 15th trip where Wilkie hosts dialogue with local veterans.

“He wanted to ‘walk the post’ and that’s a military term,” Traci Scott, Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications for Wilkie said. “It’s where leadership will go out and meet with the soldiers, with the (noncommissioned officers) and go out and see what their soldiers are doing and talk with them and hear from them. That’s exactly what Secretary Wilkie is doing.”

For Wilkie, it’s not only his duty to talk and interact with veterans but something he genuinely enjoys and takes pride in.

“My job is to serve (the veterans),” he said. “I serve them because I came from their world. I may not be a medical doctor but I do know what soldiers and airmen do. To me that’s the important thing to do, to speak their language.”