School of Nursing’s Veteran Access Program Offers Community  

Posted on March 12, 2024

Ray Goodwin poses in front of UNCG School of Nursing sign.

Ray Goodwin’s ’20 shipmates told him he needed to go to North Carolina. They were certain that’s where his people would be. And he always listened to those shipmates because he found them consistently wiser.  

Turns out, they were right.  

Following a 22-year career in the United States Navy, Goodwin knew he wanted to work in the medical field. Then based in Hawaii, he was open to colleges around the world.  

But UNC Greensboro’s School of Nursing showed up “heads and shoulders” above other nursing schools for Goodwin—and that was even before he learned about its Veteran Access Program (VAP).  

Veteran Support from the Start  

The VAP at UNCG launched in 2015 with a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant, which recognized that combat medics and other military occupational specialties have intense training, but that experience was not translating into equivalent nursing jobs in the civilian world.  

The UNCG School of Nursing was one of ten schools nationally who earned the grant. Honorably discharged, active reserve or national guard veterans and active-duty military are candidates for the program, and military students do not take the highly competitive seats away from traditional students. 

Annually, each cohort is 20 to 24 students. VAP graduates earn a bachelor’s in science in Nursing (BSN) degree. 

But the most essential element is the community and support VAP provides. From customized plans of study to counseling to a Student Veteran Association, UNCG created an environment for veterans in which they can thrive on an academic campus.  

In fact, UNCG is repeatedly recognized as a Top 10 Military-Friendly School and Top 10 Military-Spouse Friendly School, as recently as 2023-24.  

Ray Goodwin poses with VAP Coordinator Dr. Susan Letvak.

Goodwin Finds His Way 

After working as a submarine radio operator in the Navy, Goodwin applied to the School of Nursing at UNCG. Once accepted, he first learned about VAP from a phone call with Wendy Trogden, the grant manager at the time, which was the beginning of many conversations.  

“Because of that initial call, I felt like UNCG was going to be home, where I needed to be,” says Goodwin. “I was in Hawaii, literally oceans away, and she made me feel comfortable about coming to the school.”  

Upon arrival, Goodwin quickly realized he underestimated the value the VAP community would have in his journey.  

“I did not realize how strong the veteran community is here. I didn’t realize how much I was going to miss my shipmates and comrades,” Goodwin says. “I got here, and the program was close-knit—it was something I didn’t realize I needed until I had it again here.”  

Goodwin says that being in the miliary is a unique experience, but being at UNCG is similar. People of all ages are brought together and must learn to work together. 

“Ray came in as a more mature student, wondering how he would fit in with the 20-year-olds,” says former VAP Coordinator Dr. Susan Letvak. “But he easily found comradery with the students, due to his experience, leadership, outgoing personality and professionalism. He found his place.”  

Learning Sometimes Comes as a Surprise   

Ray Goodwin sitting at a desk reading.

When asked about his favorite course at UNCG, Goodwin laughs and says, “The one that I failed.” He calls Pathopharmacology “devasting” and claims “it tore me up.” But he also credits the course (both attempts) and his professors with teaching him how he needed to study to succeed in nursing school.  

One pleasant surprise for Goodwin during his VAP time was the people in the program. “In the military, you are used to people from all walks of life,” says Goodwin. “In this program, you experience the same—there are diverse types of people in all different age groups, who were willing to work with me and help me learn. It’s an amazing atmosphere.”  

Goodwin was also surprised how the local community embraced UNCG VAP students as he approached graduation. He had interviews lined up before starting his last semester and three job offers before his graduation in 2020.  

“Everybody wanted us. They wanted UNCG graduates more than anybody else.” To date, VAP students have had a 100% job placement rate.  

VAP Students = UNCG Ambassadors 

Goodwin landed a job with Novant Health following graduation where he worked as a nurse in Neuro ICU for over two years. Then, he received a “unicorn job offer” as an Occupational Health Nurse with Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, where he provides triage care and injury and illness prevention in a factory setting.  

Goodwin likens his current job to that of a school nurse, so often he revisits his old textbooks and notes from classes to aid in his support of employees in his care. He says, “I have self-discipline and a need for knowledge that was instilled in me at UNCG.”  

Letvak notes that over 150 students have graduated from VAP, and she says, “VAP students are great ambassadors for UNCG.” 

Goodwin is a strong example of the impact of VAP as he now serves the civilian world in an important way.  

For more information about VAP at UNCG, please contact VAP Coordinator Philip Simpson at or 336-334-5288.  

Visit Military-Affiliated Services for more resources:  

Story written by Amy Burtch, AMBCopy LLC
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

Ray Goodwin talks with Ray Goodwin poses with VAP Coordinator Dr. Susan Letvak.

UNCG Supports Veterans


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