Public Affairs

Vets Inspired to Save Lives

June 7, 2012
By Stephanie Thara

Loyalty. Perseverance. Dedication. Courage.

These are just a few words to describe the 6,000 veteran and active duty students spread across the 23 CSU campuses. Student veterans are returning from combat and using their experiences to pursue degrees in fields that can benefit other soldiers. 

Christian Somoza, a Marine veteran and recent CSU Dominguez Hills graduate, decided he wanted to become a psychologist after learning about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in an introductory psychology course.

Christian Somoza“I was deployed to Iraq with an infantry of 12 Marines and came back with eight. We all had the same experiences, but we all came back differently,” said Somoza. “I wanted to understand why and wanted to learn the effects of trauma on the human mind.”

With the guidance of CSUDH faculty, Somoza carried out extensive research in the laboratory, which allowed him to build a strong foundation of research skills. The hands-on-experience gained in his undergraduate studies played a key role in getting accepted to University of Colorado Denver in the clinical health psychology doctoral program. He plans to conduct research on the effects that relationship issues have among active duty military personnel on PTSD, and eventually become a clinician dedicated to helping veterans.

CSU San Marcos President's Award winner and former Marine Dalziel Soto, hopes to use his recently granted kinesiology degree to help rehabilitate people with spinal cord injury.

“After my life in the military I realized that I wanted [to do] something that could be applicable to helping veterans, especially those wounded from war,” said Soto. “I Dalziel Sotorealized that I could apply my passion of the research sciences to help those who were not as lucky as I to return home whole physically.”

Working closely with CSUSM kinesiology professor Jeff Nessler, Soto discovered that he wanted to focus his research on advancing neuroprosthesis, which would allow an amputee to control the prosthetic through brain or nervous system control allowing for a more real-life feel of the prosthesis.

“I know that because of the opportunities CSUSM has provided me, I will be a better researcher, better leader and I will reach my goals no matter what obstacles come my way,” said Soto.