Ohio State seal on the Oval

Shelby Huff was seeing a lot gray.

As a Marine and member of the Vermont National Guard, she always knew what the expectations were. But having exited the service and stepped back into the civilian world, things were less black and white for Huff — and the adjustment was challenging.

Growing up in Ohio, she’d always wanted to be a Buckeye. After her military service, Huff enrolled at Ohio State and learned about an opportunity that could help her with the transition: the Undergraduate Veterans Leadership Conference

The conference is a three-day experience that provides military veterans a smooth transition from the armed forces to the Ohio State classroom. Participants are presented with leadership and professional development opportunities, as well as access to various resources, knowledge and a community of peers at Ohio State. The conference, which was delivered virtually this year, is offered by the Fisher Leadership Initiative (FLI)  at Fisher College of Business in partnership with Ohio State’s Military and Veterans Services.

“This year, we took a more intensive focus on involving leaders from the community — even beyond the folks they’ll see on campus at Ohio State,” said Sarah Mangia, senior director for the FLI. “We did even more to focus on cultivating those connections and networks.”

Veterans heard from others who had served and related to the various hardships associated with re-entering civilian life as a student.

“The speakers talked about making the most of the strengths gained and honed in the military and translating them to being a Buckeye,” Mangia said.

Huff, who was honorably discharged as a sergeant and is planning to study health information management systems, had been worried the loyalty she had always known and relied on between service members would be gone on campus. But her experience with the conference proved otherwise.

“From day one of boot camp, you are taught to look out for each other and to take care of one another,” she said. “This conference was a prime example of service members looking out for each other. No matter what branch each presenter came from, they were still passing on their knowledge — hoping it will benefit even just one person.”

Huff made many important connections, including with Lt. General Michael Ferriter, U.S. Army (Retired). Ferriter serves as president and CEO of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, where Huff will soon begin volunteering.

This year’s conference was made possible through the support of the Lurie family in honor of Major Eugene H. Nirdlinger, who served in World War II.

He died in December 1944 when the unmarked Japanese ship he was aboard was bombed by the U.S. Nirdlinger was among the more than 400 American prisoners of war who perished at sea during the incident. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart for his service and left behind a wife and young daughter, Nancy.

Despite COVID-19, the conference was informative and emotional for the participants and for me,” said Nancy Lurie (BS ’62), whose gift on behalf of the family made the experience possible. “My father loved learning, his country and the military; consequently, I feel sponsoring the Undergraduate Veteran Leadership Conference at Ohio State, my alma mater, is a beautiful and appropriate way to honor his name and sacrifice.”

The conference had another sentimental effect on Lurie.

“Because of this program, I have been focusing more on the history of my father in World War II and have had more frequent discussions with my children and grandchildren — all very important to me,” she said. “Thank you, Ohio State!"

From day one of boot camp, you are taught to look out for each other and to take care of one another. This conference was a prime example of service members looking out for each other.

Shelby HuffHealth Information Management Systems Student