Still serving: Military alumna takes aim at veterans' wellness

Transition to student life after military service inspired Dakota Hohenwalter to create a new campus group, the ASU Veteran Wellness Club

November 23, 2020

Dakota Hohenwalter is an Arizona State University College of Health Solutions graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in exercise and wellness. She is also a military veteran with nearly 10 years of soldiering behind her, including four years of active duty and a six-year commitment to the U. S. Army Reserve as an intelligence analyst.

Her military experience has given her a unique view about exercise and wellness as it applies to veterans. That, plus her own transition to student life after military service, inspired her to create a new campus group, the ASU Veteran Wellness Club. dakota hohenwalter Dakota Hohenwalter Download Full Image

“Serving in the military comes with a lot of rewards and sacrifices. Most often, the biggest sacrifice veterans give during their service is their health. A lot of the missions, training exercises and stressors cause wear and tear on the body,” she said.

That wear and tear can be emotional, too, and it’s extensive. In 2019, government figures showed that 25% of veterans had a service-connected disability, and the number jumps to 41% for veterans who served after the 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center.

The ASU Veteran Wellness Club is structured around a long-standing view that holistic health rests on eight pillars: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, occupational, financial, intellectual and environmental wellness. With that in mind, the organization serves as both a social outlet and as a clearinghouse connecting members to resources that will help them navigate school, finance and life beyond the barracks.

And that can be a challenging transition. Being active-duty military means living with constant direction that dictates where to be and when to be there, Hohenwalter said. In contrast, campus life means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want.

“It was kind of hard for me to adapt to that college lifestyle,” said Hohenwalter, who graduated from the College of Health Solutions in 2019 with her Bachelor of Science in exercise and wellness.

Through the Veteran Wellness Club, she hopes to help new student veterans on campus find the resources she wishes she had known about when she first came to ASU.

The club isn’t her only outlet for giving back to the community and supporting our troops. Hohenwalter recently talked to the College of Health Solutions about what drives her to aid others and how she plans to serve in the future.

Question: How has serving in the military affected your life today?

Answer: Serving in the military has allowed me to develop a passion for service. While I may not always be serving my country through my military service, I try to give back to my community and those around me whenever possible. I sincerely believe that I am where I am in life because of the communities I have been a part of. Additionally, two of the most important lessons I've learned in life were due to my military service: One, resilience, and two, confidence in oneself. In the past, before my service, I was often lacking in confidence and doubted myself often. In the military, I was given a lot of opportunities and responsibilities and had great mentors which allowed me to overcome this personal barrier. I was also faced with several obstacles and difficulties while serving that have taught me a certain level of resilience, which has contributed greatly to my success as a student. 

Q: How are you still connected to the military and other veterans?

A: I am still heavily connected to military communities and veterans throughout the Phoenix area. I currently serve on ASU's Veteran Advocacy and Affairs committee, and I also serve as the president of the Veteran Wellness Club on the ASU Downtown (Phoenix) campus.

Q: What does service mean to you and how has that changed after serving?

A: Service to me was always about sacrificing for the greater good. There was always an emphasis on selfless service and giving back to those around me while I served. After I transitioned to the reserves, that mindset was preserved, and I learned how to apply it to my "civilian soldier" lifestyle. My passion for service was what drove me to pursue a career as a professor and as a researcher geared towards injury prevention in tactical populations.

Q: How do you see yourself improving health outcomes for veterans?

A: In the future, I would love to be a part of preventive studies that help improve the overall musculoskeletal health of service members and veterans so they're able to minimize any damage to their bodies. 

ASU fall grad achieves ambitious goal of earning dual law and business degrees

November 23, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Thomas Grimes may be the only law student in the country who can say he was a “roughneck.” While he always dreamed of pursuing a law career, Grimes decided to take an alternate route after earning his undergraduate degree from UCLA, accepting a job working on oil rigs in West Virginia. Thomas Grimes Thomas Grimes is a fall JD/MBA grad at ASU. Download Full Image

“After nearly five years of that experience, I felt I was ready to return to the classroom and pursue my legal education,” said Grimes, who ultimately chose the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University to pursue his JD while concurrently studying for an MBA from ASU. He will graduate this fall.

To ease the transition back to school, and working indoors again, Grimes, from Encinitas, California, enrolled in a paralegal program at the University of San Diego and began working at a business defense litigation firm. “After working as a paralegal, I knew the legal field was right for me,” he said. “Further, I decided that to better serve businesses as clients, an MBA would prove invaluable.”

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU Law that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Before beginning law school, I heard horror stories about how law students sabotage one another. At ASU Law, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the students go out of their way to help one another. While competitive with one another, everyone seems to come together and act as a community.

From a more abstract standpoint, the student body is very diverse — both culturally and geographically. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table. On any given topic, the diversity has allowed me to see multiple perspectives I would have never considered — like how a law might impact a specific group negatively.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I hate cold weather and wanted to move somewhere with a booming economy. It was also important for me to attend a college with well-respected law and business schools.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Chad Noreuil ended each criminal law lecture with a two- to three-minute section on mental health. Law school beats people up mentally. His lectures taught me that, regardless of what is going on, it is important to focus on yourself and your emotional well-being.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: No matter how crazy things get, take one day per week and do zero studying. It will help you avoid burnout. Also, have fun and make friends. The Arizona legal community is small — only one other state has fewer lawyers per capita.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: When the weather is nice, my favorite place to study or meet with friends is in the law school’s fifth floor mezzanine. If trying to study or read somewhere quiet, I hunker down in the Reading Room. Pro Tip: There are a few leather chairs in the Reading Room. They are the comfiest chairs in the world and are perfect for taking a power nap.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be working as an associate at Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C., an insurance defense litigation firm in downtown Phoenix.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Elephant and rhino poaching in Africa has risen dramatically over the past decade. If given $40 million, I would use the money to help conserve and protect those at-risk animals.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law