Hundreds of prospective students and their parents come to Towson University every spring to tour the campus. One such parent is Barbara Van Dahlen, who visited TU last month with her daughter Grace.
A clinical psychologist, Van Dahlen is president of the nonprofit organization Give an Hour, which works to meet the mental health needs of the troops and families affected by the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The daughter of a World War II veteran, Van Dahlen has always had what she calls a “healthy respect” for service and the military. Growing up in the Vietnam era and later witnessing the mental health struggles of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had a tremendous impact on her.
“In 2004 I started thinking we’re not ready and we need to get the civilian community engaged,” she explains. “And I thought, I’m sitting here as a mental health professional and if I give a little time, if we ask everybody to give a little time, we could create a huge resource.”
Today, Give an Hour has nearly 7,000 volunteers and offers counseling and treatment for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and more. In recognition of this mobilization, Van Dahlen has been featured in numerous articles, television shows and radio programs, and was recently named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine.
Like mother, like daughter
Grace, 17, also has a passion for psychology. Seeing this, Van Dahlen reconnected with Ray Lorion, her graduate school mentor and current dean of Towson’s College of Education, to plan a campus visit.
“Gracie really wants a school that feels like a community,” says Van Dahlen. ”She knows she wants to go into psychology and I know there is a good psychology department here.”
During the visit, the pair met President Maravene Loeschke as well as Patrick Young, coordinator of Towson’s Veterans Center, which provides educational, social and personal support to the veteran community on campus.
Van Dahlen says she looks forward to collaborating with the university on veterans issues in the future.