Know Your Staff: Stephen Pusateri, Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services
Each servicemember's military experience is unique (as is each military family's), but there is a shared "something" there, which has no sufficient analogy in the civilian world. It is an absolute privilege, as a lifelong civilian, to see that connection in action.
Where are you from?
I'm from the South Hills of Pittsburgh, PA, specifically Bethel Park, where that show This Is Us is set.
Where did you attend college, and what did you study?
I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in English literature and a minor in Italian. I'm close to completing my MFA in writing for children here at Simmons.
What services does the Office of Military & Veteran Services provide?
For those students utilizing Post-9/11 or Veterans Readiness & Employment funding, I counsel them on their costs and how to get the most out of their hard-earned benefits. I also schedule programming, like our Virtual Veterans Lounge and our twice-weekly Active Study Sessions, to provide opportunities for our military students to engage and network while at Simmons.
I serve as the main point of contact for all of our Active Duty Servicemembers, veterans, and military spouses and dependents. I oversee our newly-created Veterans Lounge, our compliance with DoD and VA policies, and programming and outreach for both prospective and current students.
How did you come to work with our veteran community?
I was actually randomly assigned the military caseload when I started here in Student Financial Services, so there was no initial calling to it, but the more I engaged with and learned about our military community, the more gaps I saw that needed to be filled and the more voices that needed to be heard. That is why I advocated to create this office and this position, to support the whole student experience, not just the financial aid piece.
What do you find most rewarding about your position?
How genuine my students' responses are to feeling seen and heard. And to see how this community constantly lifts one another up is amazing. Each servicemember's military experience is unique (as is each military family's), but there is a shared "something" there, which has no sufficient analogy in the civilian world. It is an absolute privilege, as a lifelong civilian, to see that connection in action.
...to see how this community constantly lifts one another up is amazing.
If we visited your office, what would we see?
You would see a beat-up old portrait of Willie Nelson taken by Annie Liebovitz that I ripped out of a Rolling Stone magazine, a Pittsburgh Jazzlive International Festival poster, a framed copy of the album I produced back in my pre-higher ed life, and a Love The Coopers movie poster (more on that later).
Also, one of the snake plants that I've been distributing across campus as part of a veterans wayfinding initiative. Its siblings are currently living in areas like the Veterans Lounge, the Multicultural Center, the Dix/Commuter Lounge, the One Stop Center, and the Center for Student Success.
What's the last book you read?
A great book called Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, but please don't tell Professor Mercier, as I was supposed to read that for class two weeks ago! So my actual answer is either Nives by Sacha Naspini or Cathedral by Ben Hopkins.
I can't remember which I read last, but what I've learned is that since they published Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels series, I will read anything that Europa Editions puts out.
What TV shows and podcasts are you currently binging?
I listen to the VA's Borne the Battle podcast for work, as well as Veterans In Academics. I listen to WTF with Marc Maron and Twenty Thousand Hertz for pleasure.
As for TV, I recommend Only Murders in the Building. It's some of Martin Short's best work, and I'd bet good money that he's going to win some hardware for his mantle from this performance.
What Instagram accounts do you follow?
On Instagram, I like to check in on @bostonvets and @wburartery to know what's going on around town. I'm a long-time fan of Alice Smith so I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend @alicesmithmusic. And for a taste of home, I follow @soulshowmike, my former colleague at WYEP-FM. He hosts the best radio show in the country.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
My go-to fun fact is about the holiday movie Love the Coopers. They film a lot of movies in and around Pittsburgh, and my dad has gotten involved in doing work as an actor and extra in many productions (post-retirement hobby).
He plays a mall security guard who has a flashback to all the times he remembers kissing underneath a sprig of mistletoe. The first flash is recent, so it's another shot of him. The second flash is 30 years earlier, and since I'm a carbon copy of my dad, that one is played by me. The third flash is him, aged 18, and is played by my cousin Dylan who is built like us. Some random kid plays the fourth flash since we didn't have any twelve-year-olds in the family at the time.
It has a great ensemble cast (clearly) and is narrated by Steve Martin. Please note that this doesn't necessarily constitute a movie recommendation, but altogether it's not bad. We're also in that movie Sudden Death with Jean-Claude Van Damme, but it's a crowd shot at the old Civic Arena, so you're not going to see us.