For Love of a Veteran: Grad Student Erin Cerasaro Inspired by Husband’s Service

Erin Cerasaro, left, works with Professor Elena Klaw on research to support veterans on transitioning to college. She was inspired to pursue a master's by her husband, a former Marine.

Erin Cerasaro, left, works with Professor Elena Klaw on research to support veterans on transitioning to college. She was inspired to pursue a master’s by her husband, a former Marine.

Erin Cerasaro is a graduate student who is part of the Research and Experimental Psychology program in the College of Social Sciences at San Jose State University. When she first moved to the Bay Area and started thinking about completing a graduate degree, she reached out to SJSU Psychology Professor Elena Klaw to volunteer in her research lab.

“I was trying to figure out how to go back to school and I needed another letter,” she said. “I reached out to several professors and Dr. Klaw gave me the opportunity to volunteer in her lab.”

Cerasaro had initially started a graduate program years before in Southern California, but she took a leave of absence. Her husband, a veteran who served as a Marine in Afghanistan, inspired her to again pursue a graduate degree.

“He was medically separated from the Marines because of a back injury,” she said. “A chiropractor saved his life and helped him to be capable of living his life again.”

Her husband decided to pursue a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and they moved from San Diego when he enrolled in a program in Northern California.

“I watched him to go school and saw how he was thriving,” Cerasaro said. “I saw how much it meant to him to help people and it made me want to do that as well.”

The psychology program at SJSU and Klaw’s research lab offered that opportunity. Klaw is the director of the Veterans Embracing Transition (VET) Connect Program, which focuses on developing best practices for serving military veterans in their pursuit of higher education.

“I’ve learned to do qualitative research and it has been inspiring to watch her work,” Cerasaro said of Klaw. “She’s always on the go and it’s amazing to watch her teach a class, run VET Connect, run her lab, and work on Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s helped me see where I want to be when I graduate. I want to go on to get my PhD.”

Cerasaro continues to look to her husband for motivation.

“He has had issues with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and I’ve watched him overcome so many obstacles to get where he is today, to maintain and go beyond what is normal for him,” she said, adding, “Studying for hours, exercising to maintain his back and the things he does to maintain his mental health just truly is an inspiration.”