As Daniel Camper, veteran student studying construction management, makes his way around campus, many people are astounded by the 207-pound English Mastiff named Harvey walking by his side as a service dog.
Camper served in the Army for 19 years and four months. He achieved the rank of first sergeant before being medically retired in March 2015. The dynamic duo met in 2016 and came to campus that same year.
“For the first two terms he was going to school, he didn’t have a lot of participation with the military students here, but as he started realizing some of the different programs we had could use some guidance, he went from being just a regular student to taking on some leadership roles,” said Eric Buetikofer, Military and Academic Advisor for nontraditional and military students.
Camper joined the University’s Student Veterans of America organization, also known as SVA, in 2016, and in August 2018, he became the President.
SVA supports a network of over 1,500 schools and over 700,000 student veterans. At the individual level, we empower veterans to be informed consumers of higher education and make the most of the transition to civilian life. In addition to providing educational support and benefits, SVA also provides a safe community for like-minded military personnel to build relationships.
When Camper first joined SVA, he noticed the president at the time had “overworked himself, so the organization was misguided, stretched thin and SVA was left hanging.”
Buetikofer, who is also the Advisor for Bowling Green’s SVA organization said previous presidents “took on the position out of necessity, since we didn’t have a lot of volunteers, but Daniel was one of the first students who wanted to take on that role, because he saw the potential of what the SVA could be.”
Around 650 military-affiliated students are enrolled at the University. Since Camper has become president, there has been an increase in registration for SVA through OrgSync, as well as increased attendance at weekly meetings, according to Buetikofer. There is also a stronger female population and Camper has also suggested opening up meetings and membership to dependents as well.
“The only goal I set for myself during my time in office was to get more awareness of the SVA on campus,” Camper said. Members of the SVA have recognized the impact Camper has had within their organization, as well as their personal lives.
Buetikofer said, “Coming out of active duty, the transition from a military culture system to a civilian culture system is often times a very rapid adjustment, and Daniel is particularly helpful with our incoming military students who have transitional issues.”
Bonnie Bailey, veteran student studying Human Development and Family Studies, is the Treasurer for SVA and works closely with Camper. When the two first met, they found out they had been stationed at Fort Lewis during the same time, and “really hit it off,” Bailey said.
She added, “Daniel has become my closest friend here; we have a lot of the same history. I understand him, and I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him closer. He has been a blessing in my life. He gives me confidence in myself when I don’t have it.”
Courtney Storey, junior studying Broadcast Journalism, works in the Non-traditional and Military Student Services as a Peer Advisor for student veterans. Although she is not an active military member herself, both of her parents have served. She attends SVA meetings on a regular basis.
“Daniel took me in under his wing. I was the only female dependent showing up to the meetings. He befriended me because he saw I was quiet and the only one who hadn’t served in the military, even though I’m military affiliated. He reached out to me and made me feel more comfortable; he’s kind of like a dad to me,” Storey said.
Additionally, Camper, along with others, has been working to prepare a trip to the 2019 SVA National Convention, which is commonly referred to as NatCon. It is the largest annual gathering of student veterans and advocates in the country. The three-day event is about empowering veteran voices on college campuses and being a driving force to make change for veterans on college campuses. It also gives student veterans opportunities to network. Buetikofer said, more and more students are going to NatCon, and he attributes much of the work to Camper. SVA is sending 10 students to NatCon in Orlando, Florida, which is the most they’ve ever sent before.
“Since August, him and I have been working together planning the trip. We have had to jump through so many hoops; it’s just been a whirlwind trying to keep everything organized and situated, but no matter what has come across, he’s right there fixing it,” Bailey said.
Between the months of September and October, SVA held a fundraiser to help support some of the trip’s finances. Tickets were sold in the Union for one dollar each, and people voted on the costume they wanted Harvey to wear for Halloween. The organization raised $151 for the trip and people around campus got to enjoy seeing Harvey dressed up as President Rodney Rodgers.
“SVA has a different dynamic than other student organizations. We don’t connect so well with the traditional student, and a way to connect with them is through my loveable pup,” Camper said.
Seeing people’s reactions to Harvey is one of Bailey’s favorite things in the world, especially because there aren’t many service dogs around campus that come close to his size. She said, “Daniel’s kindness comes through, and his care for others. He lets people touch Harvey and lets him go up to people. He understands that Harvey is there for him, but he’s okay with letting Harvey give comfort to other people.”
Not only has Camper been involved with the SVA on the University’s campus, but SVA organizations on other college campuses have also had the chance to experience his leadership.
A few SVA members from the University of Toledo attended one of the meetings in Bowling Green. Veronica Mora, public relations officer of SVA organization at UT, said “one of the reasons we went to BGSU, is that we’ve heard nothing but great things come out of it, and one of our goals is to implement some of BGSU’s practices here at UT.” She described the atmosphere at Bowling Green’s campus as being “veteran-friendly.”
Brandon Kalbfliesh, the president of the SVA at UT, said their organization wanted to make a trip to NatCon this year to network to see how they could improve their university for the veterans on a day to day basis. They had never been to NatCon before, so they didn’t know where to begin.
Camper said, “I invited them to one of our meetings to see how we work, and to see how we were preparing for the upcoming Student Veterans of America National Convention.” He helped them put together a proposal for their university in order to receive the support they needed. The SVA organization at UT was able to get the whole trip funded.
“I feel strongly that if it hadn’t been for BGSU’s insight, we would not be going to NatCon this year. Daniel’s leadership skills have extended from his military career to his student career. He was a leader in the military and he’s very much a leader now,” Mora said. “There’s no rivalry here. We’re all part of the military, and it’s like an extension of the family.”
Defiance College is another school that has been impacted by the SVA at the University. Their organization has been around since 2017 but was nationally recognized in October 2018.
“We are mentoring Defiance College’s newly formed SVA through their first few years,” Camper said. The president and vice president have attending meetings on Bowling Green’s campus, and the vice president is going to accompany BGSU’s SVA on their trip to NatCon.
According to Buetikofer, student veteran organizations on college campuses are very hard to start. He said, “We’re fortunate here compared to peer institutions. We have a very good core group of students. Having someone dynamic like Daniel to drive the organization is really helpful.”
On Friday, Nov. 16, Camper and Harvey performed the ceremonial puck drop together as the Guests of Honor at the hockey game during Heroes Weekend, when the University honored military, police officers, firefighters, and emergency responders. Nate Glusich, the person in charge of deciding the Guest of Honor at each game, asked Buetikofer for the names of two veterans he thought should do the puck drop.
“When we honor our military students on the football field, basketball court, or ice arena, we always try to find students who exemplify our military student population, and students who will raise a certain awareness of our military population. Having Daniel and Harvey there definitely raises recognition and awareness,” Buetikofer said.
Camper had been encouraged by Buetikofer previously to partake in opportunities similar to the puck drop, but had turned them down, because Camper said he doesn’t like being the center of attention.
As Bailey put it, “he is extremely humble, and does not see himself as the rest of us see him.”
Since coming to Bowling Green, many people say Camper has been an influential figure within the military student population among the University, with Harvey by his side.
“If it wasn’t for the SVA and the individuals that work in the Non-traditional Military Student Services office, I would have left BGSU a long time ago,” Camper said. Others say he has gone above and beyond to reach out and influence non-traditional and military students from other schools as well.
“Daniel has elevated our organization to be a leader in Northwest Ohio,” Buetikofer said.