Kat Riddler, Managing Editor
Coming back from winter break, students will see a new face in the Veterans Center in Clark 211. Joshua Perschbacher took over for Rebecca McMenamin as the office’s Manager of Veteran & Military Services and VA Certifying Official. McMenamin left the position October 31 and Perschbacher’s first day was January 8.
Jim Craig, department chair of military and veterans studies, said, “I am very excited to welcome Perschbacher to UMSL and to the Veteran Center. A GI-Bill veteran himself, Josh knows the struggles of our student veterans personally and his experiences as a VA certifying official in his previous job will ensure UMSL veteran programs don’t miss a step. He is the right person for the job and I am proud to call him our new colleague.”
Perschbacher has previously been at the intersection of academia and veteran affairs. He was a military student services advisor at the Chamberlain College of Nursing from 2014 to 2016. At Northeastern Illinois University, he was the acting director of veteran services for a year and a half. He said, “I’m already impressed and happy to be coming into an organization that is doing as much as it is doing.”
Perschbacher was born in Centralia, Illinois and moved to Mount Vernon before moving to complete his college education. He completed his undergraduate at SIU Carbondale in social science education before joining and serving in the navy from 2009 to 2013. He joined the Navy because of family history with the military branch: he had two grandfathers in the Navy in World War II. He went back to school at Northern Illinois University to complete his master’s degree in higher education administration.
Perschbacher says his short term goal is to become acclimated to the city and the campus. According to Perschbacher, Chicago has a strong network of veterans and he hopes to look into the community in St. Louis. He said, “[Chicago] is a really strong, healthy veteran ecosystem that does take care of one another. I want to get involved in that environment here and find out what is being done and then see if there is any of those services, organizations, and infrastructure set up elsewhere that can be imported in to help everyone in the St. Louis area.”
Specifically to UMSL, he is thinking about reaching out to students in person and via survey. “I need to find out what things are we doing here and what are we doing well and keep doing that,” he said. “What could we be doing more as the Vet Center to support and transition from active duty to college and to job placement?”
Perschbacher was an associate instructor for FourBlock, a national nonprofit that works on career preparedness for veterans. He hopes to bring this type of a program here to UMSL and St. Louis. This 10-week FourBlack program was hosted at Accenture and it worked on developing different skill sets like personal branding. The other half of the time, participants would go on field trips to industries in Chicago like KPMG and Deloitt. They would also meet with career-preparedness veterans from the military employee resource group (MERG) representatives.
There is another group called the Veterans Leadership Council who, at their December meeting, said they were interested in expanding into St. Louis and Washington, D.C. This group has a monthly meeting of mostly post 9/11 veterans, but there are also older veterans as well who use this as a networking opportunity to meet people in different industries. Perschbacher described this group as a type of alumni association of those who completed the FourBlock program and work at different companies. Through this group they network and help others with the shared veteran experience.
Perschbacher said, “Some of the studies they have looked at say that 48 percent of enlisted veterans end up leaving their first job within the first year. So what can we do to make companies more veteran friendly and decrease those attrition numbers and increase retention?”
While Perschbacher comes from his previous employment in Chicago, he said he is a Cardinals and Blues fan. His wife Megan, and their year-and-a half-old son EJ, plan to join him in St. Louis in the summer. They are expecting their second child later on this year. He brought them to tour the campus when he was applying for the position and the family enjoyed the campus and the city.
They are looking at different neighborhoods currently. Perschbacher said, “The age old question my son is going to be asked is ‘where did you go to high school?’ I have to start thinking about that now.”