To Camden Ege, diving into the deep pool of veteran-related laws and bureaucratic policies is about helping people who served as he did.
So if the assistant director of Veterans Services for the University of Southern Maine sometimes sounds less like a former Air Force airman and more like a wonk — with Byzantine acronyms rolling off his tongue — it’s a small price to pay.
“It’s for the student veterans,” said Ege, a two-time graduate of the University. “I am working for a lot of different folks across the state.”
Since October, Ege has served as a member of the board of the National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators. The organization actively monitors and provides input to lawmakers and the VA on matters that relate to veterans educational benefits and training in relation to institutes of higher learning, according to its website.
The position, one of 41 across the country spanning eight regions, is about bringing a practical perspective to the policies, Ege said. Interpreting the laws and finding ways to implement them with the least burden is always a challenge, he said.
It’s something he’s learned in his various roles.
Ege earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology in 2016 and was awarded a master’s degree in Leadership Studies two years later. As a student, he began the University’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America. And when the guys who created Green Zone training for faculty and staff, teaching them about student veterans and their needs, became busy, he ran that for a while.
After graduation, he worked in the Veterans Resource Center before getting a job working for the University of Maine System as the director of the Maine State Approving Agency.
“I evaluated and approved individual education programs for use in the GI Bill,” Ege said. He worked throughout the UMaine System and with the state’s private schools as well.
“Anywhere someone wanted to use GI benefits, the office had to approve,” he said. He did it for two years until a change in federal law forced the system to eliminate the role. Then, he returned to the University of Southern Maine.
In his role as assistant director of Veterans Services, Ege keeps abreast of changes in the law much as an accountant might work to keep up with changes in tax law. He served on the Legislative Committee of the National Association of Veterans’ Program Administrators before its election earlier this fall.
He hadn’t planned to run. Then, he thought about the nearly 400 students at the University who receive GI Bill benefits. He added his name to the candidates for the job.
“I’m in a unique position,” he said, “I thought I could help.”