Danny Harmon’s small victories lead to master’s degree at CSU

Story by Erica Billingsley

Congratulations to Danny Harmon who completed his master’s degree at Colorado State University in political science Spring Semester 2021. His thesis is titled: “Climate Change Contributions to Conflict: An Analysis of Syria, Yemen and Egypt.” In our recent conversation with Danny, he shared some of the keys to his academic success and personal growth as he worked with the Center for Community Partnerships’ New Start program and other university resources.

Danny HarmonHow would you describe your experience at CSU? 

Ever since I started at CSU, I have felt welcome here. The University puts forth an effort to make veterans feel like they belong, like they are wanted on campus, like they have something to offer. I feel very privileged to have gone here and I feel gratitude for the resources available to me.

What are some keys to your success?

I think the university, especially CSU, provides the perfect arena for someone coming out of the military who may suffer from post-traumatic stress, or may suffer from other things. This is a good place to reintegrate into society because you have so many resources like the New Start program, the Adult Learner and Veteran Services office, the Liniger Scholarship, and the Student Disability Center. These resources provide a sort of cushion, which makes coming back to school a safer environment to try and reintegrate into society. For me, seeking assistance from the New Start program and the Student Disability Center, I learned how to self-advocate. I think that self-advocacy has been integral to my success.

How have you grown during your time at CSU?

When I first started at CSU, just trying to make it across campus and then back to my apartment made me so exhausted that I couldn’t do anything else. It can be hard to be around crowds and groups of people after doing the things we did overseas, especially if you suffer from post-traumatic stress and hypervigilance.

It has been an evolution for me starting with my bachelor’s at the beginning, to finishing my master’s degree and throwing myself back out there into public, into society. This whole university environment is an amazing opportunity for growth, if you can subject yourself to it, and if you can use the resources available.

Are there any lessons you learned in the military that you drew from to help achieve your goal of getting your degree?

If you go through some of the schools I went through in the military – survival school, SERE school, and POW school – they teach you to work toward “small victories.” The way that manifested for me on campus is that each day that I got up, took a shower, left the apartment, and made it to class – that was another small victory, or another tangible piece of progress. Those incremental successes will eventually lead to a bigger success; i.e., getting your bachelor’s degree, getting your masters’ degree, being able to reintegrate into society.

What advice would you give to other student veterans attending CSU? 

No matter how difficult it is, stay the course. If you start university, your goal is that degree. Don’t stop until you get it. Thanks to New Start, the SDC, ALVS, and the university environment, I was able to progress not just academically, but also in navigating post-traumatic stress and reintegrating into society. It works.

The Center for Community Partnerships is a service outreach within the Department of Occupational Therapy, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.