By Annika Tomlin
The Pat Tillman Veterans Center celebrated its 10th anniversary of working with former military members to connect with each other and discover ASU resources.
“You can’t talk about the center for these 10 years without talking about the namesake, Pat Tillman,” says Chris Rauschenbach, the center’s director of innovation and compliance.
“In fact, one of the things that we were talking about (at the anniversary celebration) was if we were to come up with a catchphrase for Pat, what would we say or how would we encapsulate that in just a few words? One of the things we came up with was ‘inspiring service.’”
Rauschenbach retired from the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 2005 before joining the Veterans Center in 2011 at the start of the program.
“I was 20 years, two months and two days in the Air Force and was very blessed to have a great career,” Rauschenbach says. He studied engineering at the Air Force Academy before going into flight school. Rauschenbach flew the C-9 Nightingale aircraft that serves as an aeromedical evacuation aircraft as well as the C-5 galaxy “throughout most of the ’90s into the 2000s.”
“I had a great career, wonderful experience, and I’m just really grateful to be able to do what I did,” Rauschenbach says. He moved to Phoenix after retiring to be closer to his parents.
“I had done a few other odd jobs for a little bit (after retiring) and then eventually got back to my roots of what I did in the Air Force which was teaching and training,” Rauschenbach says.
After a year-long position at an online school, he eventually found an equivalent position at ASU and jumped at the opportunity to go to “the bigger school.”
“First of all, the potential that everything that was going on at ASU (at the time), they were getting really the veteran program started, and it was still largely in its infancy,” Rauschenbach says. “That was a great time to jump on board, and I feel I hit it at just the right time.”
In his position, Rauschenbach was tasked in 2011 with converting the “paper-based processes for processing benefits and turning that into electronic and making those processes more efficient.”
“One thing I kind of think about is that I really like that there wasn’t any script that we had to follow,” Rauschenbach says about the beginning of the center. “I think that we could really shape that ourselves and take a look at what needed to be done, but we had a lot of room to innovate.”
While the Pat Tillman Veterans Center’s focus is processing GI Bill benefits for veterans and/or dependents, Rauschenbach says he believes that it is “a lot more than that.”
The center is “that focal point or that connection point for the veterans during their program here,” Rauschenbach says. “I say that because we fostered the events or the opportunities for them to really find each other as well as connect them to the other resources that ASU has.”
Another feature of the center is the work-study program.
“I think one of the neat things that we were doing at the center is that we were able to employ through the VA (Veterans Assistance) study program students who we could teach to do customer service and be really the front line of communication with their fellow veterans as they came in,” Rauschenbach says.
“They helped us process benefits, but they were also there really to help guide their own peers and be able to talk to them through and share stories with and share that education journey with them.”
Rauschenbach says the 10-year anniversary celebration “honored the pioneers” of the center while also looking to the future.
“There were a number of key people at ASU who helped make the center what it is today, so that is what we celebrated as we were doing that 10th anniversary,” Rauschenbach says.
“But then we were taking a look outward and saying, ‘OK, great that we reached this point, but what is the next 10 years going to bring? What would we like to do? What would we like to develop?’”
Going back to the catchphrase “inspiring service,” Rauschenbach says the staff asks themselves daily, “Are we delivering inspiring service to our fellow veterans, students and dependents?”
Tillman’s heroism was “instrumental” in the veteran center’s creation. He left an inspirational legacy.
“Pat’s legacy is certainly one of the most inspiring services, but then we also wanted to kind of project that out to the veterans who are going to school by saying, ‘Each one of you are kind of reshaping and learning what you want to do for the next five to 10 years in your career. We hope that you (like) Pat’s path, too, create your own legacy of service beyond the military,’” Rauschenbach says.
For more information about the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, visit veterans.asu.edu. CT