Stockton Veterans to Follow in Odysseus’ Footsteps in Greek Seminars Designed to Help in Recovery and Adjustment to Civilian Life

For Immediate Release


Contact:         Maryjane Briant
                        News and Media Relations Director
                        Galloway, N.J. 08205
                        (609) 652-4593

Galloway, N.J. - Eighteen student veterans from Stockton University will be following in the footsteps of the legendary Greek king Odysseus when they travel to Greece this week for a specialized seminar with a travel component that is uniquely relevant to the veteran experience.

“To Ithaca: A Soldier’s Journey Home,” is a groundbreaking pilot program that provides military veterans adjusting to civilian life with a portion of much-needed recovery in an uncommon learning environment.

“This is a one of a kind program,” said Tom O’Donnell, assistant dean of Students and director of Veteran Affairs. “I am so proud that Stockton once again leads the way for our wonderful veterans.”

David Roessel, professor of Greek Language and Literature, designed this course, which fits into Stockton’s Global Perspectives educational theme. He is accompanying the student veterans on their journey, along with Karen Matsinger, assistant director of Counseling, and Jason Babin, an Army veteran who is a member of the university’s veterans resource team and assistant director of Student Rights & Responsibilities.

“One of the biggest challenges veterans face when leaving the military is the transition back to civilian life,” said Babin. “While many service members make this change without difficulty, some tend to have a harder time. Because of this, many often seek out other veterans who can relate to their own experiences and challenges.  By creating a course, specifically for veterans, students can feel comfortable sharing their ideas and thoughts without fear of possible judgment. 

“This course creates an opportunity for student veterans to experience their transition together, and to understand that they are not alone. While this course was created as a pilot program, we hope to continue to offer it every year,” Babin added.

Matthew Beer, vice president of the Student Veterans Organization and a senior majoring in Health Sciences, said: “This trip is a great opportunity for everyone in the class to not only walk in the footsteps of the soldiers and leaders of Ancient Greece but to also get a chance to experience a part of the world that they may have never been able to.” Beer, who lives in Galloway, served in the Army for five years and is current a sergeant in the National Guard. 

Jessica Layton of Forked River is also a senior and a sergeant in the Army National Guard who is looking forward to the trip.

“This class is an absolute fantastic opportunity for my classmates and I to be able to learn about the Trojan War and then be able to visit the sites where some of the most well-known battles took place,” she said. “It is taking the information that we have learned and really being able to see the effects it had.” Layton has a degree in Health Science and is currently working toward a second bachelor’s degree in Biology and will be starting her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. 

The group left Philadelphia for Athens March 10, in a 12-day trip sponsored by the Dean C. and Zoe S. Pappas Interdisciplinary Center for Hellenic Studies, the 2020 Global Engagement Committee, and the President’s Office at Stockton. They will visit sites including World War I battlefields at Gallipoli, a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, sites of the Greek War of Independence, Sparta, a crusader castle, Ithaca, where Odysseus was king, Olympia, World War II sites in Kephalonia, an archeological museum and the Acropolis.

They will attend a series of eight seminars, including four titled “Experiencing the Battlefield with the Greeks,” which use Homer’s Illiad; and four titled “Transitioning: The Journey Home,” which use Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, also known by the Latin name Ulysses, is the hero of The Odyssey and plays a key role in The Iliad.

For example, a seminar on “Recognition and Homecoming” is described this way: “When Odysseus arrives home to the island of Ithaca, his guide, the goddess Athena, disguises him as an old man to protect him from the suitors, who have been making advances on his wife and home. This seminar will focus on the ways in which a soldier changes during his time away and how those changes—both physical and mental — make homecoming more difficult.”

“This is an exciting program that may become a model around the country,” said Robert Gregg, dean of the School of General Studies. “Basing the tour to Greece on Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad is really a profoundly inspired idea.”

The group will be posting on social media during the trip; to follow them, visit

Stockton has been rated as one of the top 20 schools in the nation for veterans by Military Times, U.S. News & World Report and Online College Plan. For more information, visit: For academic program information, visit Stockton’s Center for Hellenic Studies.