Our Team

You can schedule an appointment for services with our staff by clicking here.

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

Garrett 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 Lotspeich-Yadao

Michael Lotspeich-Yadao

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. They are particularly interested in how the spatial demography, rural sociology, and public health literatures can inform a changing understanding of military-connected populations. They are interested in translational research, directly supporting public decision-makers, practitioners, and Land Grant Institutions like the University of Illinois in program and service delivery. Michael is alumnus 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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Student Employees

Ethan Jones

Ethan Jones

Programming Assistant (Academic and Career Services)

Ethan is a programming assistant at the Chez Veteran Center where he works to keep the academic and career services tab on the Chez website up to date. Ethan is from Monee, Illinois and is currently studying Agribusiness Market and Management here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ethan is currently serving in the Illinois Army National Guard as a 11B which is Infantryman. Ethan talked about how the Chez Veteran Center has been a great place for him to meet new people and study. When asked how the work study program will help him with his future, he responded with “the work-study program has given me more responsibilities and helps me learn to manage a larger workload.”

Zullydiana Gomez

Zullydiana Gomez

Outreach Assistant

Zully is the outreach assistant here at Chez Veteran Center where she helps plan events and encourage the military connected students of UIUC and local colleges to learn about the services that Chez and the Illini Veterans RSO can provide. She is a senior and is from Chicago Illinois. Zully is a part of the ILLINI ROTC program and is also a member of the Illinois Army National Guard. The Chez has helped Zully in finding educational benefit assistance. The work study program has helped Zully by building connections with facilities, students, and veterans. She says this part of the program not only enlightens her but also the connections she has built. The Chez has helped Zully find many resources and she hopes to help other military connected students find these resources as well. One fun fact about Zully is that she has played violin since 1st grade and was nominated to a Latin Grammy at just 16 years old!

Emily Watson

Emily Watson

Programming Assistant (Behavioral Health)

Emily is a programming assistant for behavioral where she helps plan workshops and make infographics for Chez Veteran Center. She is from Logan, West Virginia but came to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study Social Work. She is connected to the military through her father who is currently serving in the U.S. Army and has been serving for 20 years. Emily feels that the Chez Veteran Center creates a warm inviting environment for everyone. She states that “the staff is constantly helping everyone that comes into the center.” She believes that her position as the behavioral health assistant is helping her gain experience with the military and how to provide resources for those that need/want them. Emily hopes to one day be a social worker in the military.

James Biernacki

James Biernacki

Support Staff Assistant

James is currently the support staff assistant here at the Chez Veteran Center where he provides general office support such as answering calls and greeting/assisting those that come into the center. James is from Bloomingdale, Illinois and came to the University of Illinois to study Engineering Technology Management. After graduating high school, James joined the Army National Guard as a 92A which is an Automated Logistical Specialist. James claims that the Chez Veteran has opened the doors for many new opportunities that he may never have had. He believes that Chez Veteran Center allows him to give back to the Veteran community and those still currently serving. When asked how the work study program is helping him towards his future goals he stated, “my job as a support staff assistant allows me to interact with many different types of people, from students to war veterans, which helps prepare me for my future career paths.”

Dalton Belcher

Dalton Belcher

Research Assistant

Dalton is a research assistant here at the Chez Veteran Center where he prepares, manipulates, and manages research databases. Dalton is an Army Veteran coming from Pekin, Illinois. Dalton is majoring in Language and Translation here at UIUC. His work study program consists of him working alongside Jason as a programming assistant. The Chez has helped Dalton with guidance, mentorship, and academic services during his time here. One fun fact about Dalton is that he has been to Kyrgyzstan!

Jacob Means

Jacob Means

Military-Connected Student Support Specialist

Jacob is the Military-Connected Student Support Specialist here at the Chez Veterans Center. His role focuses on creating a supportive and inclusive community for military-connected students through program development, community outreach, and case management initiatives. Responsibilities include building a sense of belonging through events and collaborations, acting as a liaison for information and resources, developing tailored programs, and providing individualized support to address the unique needs of military-connected students.Jacob is a native of Danville, IL and currently a sophmore majoring in Social Work. Jacob is also a resident at the Chez and says that not only the Chez but also the work study program has helped give him a sense of being. He feels the sense of community the center gives him is something every military connected student is looking for. The work study program benefits Jacob by allowing him to focus on his studies and work at the same time. He says that this is a blessing to him and his studies. One fun fact about Jacob is that he has a pitbull named Jasper!

Cloie Widell

Cloie Widell

Social Media Assistant

Cloie is a social media assistant at the Chez Veterans Center. Cloie is from Rockford, IL and is currently a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. . Cloie is currently serving as a Sergeant in the Illinois Army National Guard. The Chez Veterans Center has helped give her a sense of community with others who come from similar backgrounds as her. The Chez could help others find benefits, and meet other military connected students at the university. In terms of the work study program, this has helped her better her skills for marketing the Chez Veterans Center and allows her a creative space. Her sidekick is her Golden Retriever Stella! One fun fact about Cloie is that she has her own photography business named Bloom Images, LLC.

Sharlei Deltang

Sharlei Deltang

BSW Intern

Sharlei, a BSW intern at the Chez Veterans Center, collaborates with Ingrid Wheeler to assist military-connected students through programming and transitional plans. Originally from Kansas City, MO, she chose the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study Social Work. Sharlei is committed to destigmatizing mental health, especially within marginalized populations in an integrated healthcare setting. Her future goal is to become a VA Social Worker and ensure quality mental health care for everyone. Sharlei’s passion for supporting military-connected students stems from her deep connection to the military, rooted in her father’s 20-year service with the U.S. Army. With a background encompassing various PCSing moves, both overseas and within the U.S., living on diverse military installations, and actively utilizing military services, Sharlei aspires to leverage her experiences for a meaningful impact in her future role as a VA Social Worker

Natalie Schneider

Graphic Design Intern

Natalie is working as a graphic design intern at the Chez Veterans Center, responsible for their brand identity, informational brochures, and promotional graphics. She is a senior here at UIUC pursuing a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with a minor in psychology. Natalie also works as a graphic designer for the Siebel center for design and the Daily Illini on campus. She is interested in graphic design, layout design and UX/UI design.