“I get to do a great service to not only military-affiliated students and veterans, but anybody can come use the (Military Student Center) and use our textbook program. I greatly enjoy expanding on that program. We really provide a heck of service.”
Major: Graduate Mental Health Counseling
Hometown: Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Involvement: Graduate assistant at Military Student Center, Veterans Affairs work-study, Philosophy
Club, Students for Secular Humanism
When Pfc. Austin Derden earned an honorable discharge from the Army Reserves, where he served as an Apache helicopter repairman, he knew where he was going.
“I came to Austin Peay immediately,” he said. “I knew it was military-friendly, and my high school wrestling coach, who I greatly admire, went to Austin Peay after he got out of the military and always spoke highly of it.”
Derden hasn’t only taken advantage of APSU’s military-friendly mission (fully using the Veterans Affairs office, for example), he’s contributed to the mission by working at the Military Student Center since 2013.
He’s now a graduate assistant at the center.
“We see at least 30 students in here a day,” he said. “Some just come to get coffee and say ‘Hi,’ some eat their lunch and do their homework.”
And his role at the center has helped Derden as he works toward his master’s degree in mental health counseling.
“I want to help people, that’s the main thing,” Derden said. “I think with my own experiences with anxiety and mental health (observing soldiers’ battles with mental breakdowns, for example), I have a good picture of mental health.”
With his master’s degree in hand, Derden wants to help in any way he can, but “I would love to work with the military population. I’ve got a good picture of that growing up with a military family, being in the military and working here, seeing all the veterans and military students here.”
Derden expects to get that degree in 2020: “I’ll be a graduate assistant (at the Military Student Center) as long as Jasmin (Linares, the center’s coordinator) will keep me.”