Our Team

Andrew Bender

Andrew Bender

Director of Operations and Services

Andy is the Director of Operations and Services at the Chez Veterans Center . Prior to his appointment he worked for 3 years at The Career Center as the Associate Director for Operations. Andy retired from the US Army in 2016 after 20 years of service and subsequently worked at Amazon and the McLean County Chamber of Commerce before finding his way to the University of Illinois and his discovering his desire to continue serving Veterans as they make their own personal transitions into higher education.

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Dustin D. Lange, Ph.D., M.S.

Dustin D. Lange, Ph.D., M.S.

Assistant Director, Academic & Career Services & Facility Operations

Dustin is the Assistant Director of our academic & career services and supports the director with the day to day operations of the facility. He has been with the center through various roles since its opening in 2015. Prior to his current appointment, Dustin did a postdoc fellowship at the Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Healthcare (CINCCH) at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Chicago, where he currently is a Research Associate and a member of their steering committee. He is a three time alumnus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has authored peer-reviewed journal articles, white papers, and is the lead author of the book titled Camo to Career: The Veteran’s Guide to Career Success. Dustin has also garnered numerous military honors from his 8-years of active duty service in the United States Marine Corps.

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Ingrid Wheeler, MSW, LCSW

Ingrid Wheeler, MSW, LCSW

Assistant Director, Behavioral Health Services

Ingrid oversees the Center’s Behavioral Health Services. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and received her Bachelor’s Degree for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and her Master’s Degree in Social Work, with a specialization in mental health, from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Ingrid is often a first contact for students and can support students with adjusting to campus, finding resources, and acclimating to higher education. As a clinician, her approach is client-centered. Ingrid has extensive experience helping individuals with a variety of challenges, from mental health challenges such as psychosis, substance abuse/dependence, personality disorders, suicidal ideation, relationship conflicts, behavioral issues, and stress management. Through individual, couples, family and group therapy, Ingrid has worked with a variety of ages in inpatient, outpatient settings, and dual diagnosis and addiction treatment centers. Ingrid comes from a military family, growing up with her father in the Navy who retired to Illinois after 20 years of active-duty service.

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Garret Anderson, Jr., Ret. Sgt. U.S Army

Garret Anderson, Jr., Ret. Sgt. U.S Army

Outreach Coordinator and Student Recruiter

Garrett is the Outreach Coordinator and Student Recruiter at the CVC, where he focus on student recruitment targeting veterans with disabilities , establish and maintain connections with national and regional disability-related groups and organizations, especially veterans with disabilities; establishing connections with para-athletic and para-recreation opportunities to create additional options for student-veterans with disabilities, building upon the strong reputation of University of Illinois programs, and establish new and maintain existing connections to local and distant community groups. Garrett Retired from the U.S. Army in 2006, received his degree in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University in 2010, and a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counselling from the University of Illinois Champaign- Urbana in 2018.

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Jason Sakowski

Jason Sakowski

Assistant Director, Veteran Student Support Services

Jason serves as the Assistant Director of Veteran Student Support Services at the Chez Veterans Center. Jason served eight years of active duty in the Marine Corps and completed two tours to Iraq and one tour to Afghanistan. It was during his undergraduate degree that he discovered he wanted to serve military-connected students after he graduated. Jason also retired from the Illinois National Guard 2020 and completed his Master’s in the Human Resources Development program here at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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Michael C. Lotspeich-Yadao, Ph.D.

Michael C. Lotspeich-Yadao, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, Research and Educational Programming

Michael oversees research and educational initiatives for the Chez Veteran Center, serving as a technical expert for veteran and military-connected research. He is the point of contact for university researchers interested in studying military veterans—ranging from support in grant writing to the preparation of final reports. His research portfolio centers itself on social demography and rural sociology, with a substantive interest in how ecological systems theory can be used to explain the process of transitioning military veterans to rural communities. Michael identifies as a computational social scientist— at the intersection of sociology and computer science to use high-performance computing solutions to create meaningful measures of human behavior from state and federal administrative data. Michael is a University of Illinois alumna and completed his Ph.D. in Applied Sociology at Baylor University. He is also an Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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Austin Slotnick

Austin Slotnick

Office Support Associate

Austin provides general support to the program, service, and research missions of the Chez Veterans Center. He’ll be ready to greet you on the phone or at the front desk if you are looking for more information! Austin is a Champaign-Urbana native with a B.A. in Audio Recording and Technology from Eastern Illinois University. Prior to joining Chez, he had a series of roles in the arts, education, and humanities.

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