The 16th Annual National Conference (NatCon) of the Student Veterans of America (SVA), held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, was a remarkable gathering, attracting nearly 2,500 attendees. Among the highlights of the event was the inspiring keynote address by Col. Merryl Tengesdal (ret.), which became a focal point of the conference.
Col. Merryl Tengesdal, a figure of inspiration and a respected retired officer, stood before a captivated audience, sharing her experiences and insights with immense passion. Her words resonated deeply with the attendees, many of whom were fellow veterans. Merryl said, “Just had an incredible experience at the 16th annual NatCon with Student Veterans of America! I forgot how much I love being around fellow veterans, and the energy at the opening ceremony was electric. Thank you for having me as the keynote speaker and for the honor of meeting so many veterans dedicated to furthering their education.”
A Conference of Magnitude and Meaning
NatCon, renowned as the largest gathering of student veterans globally, brought together representatives from nearly 1,600 SVA chapters. The conference served as a melting pot for exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, and fostering networking opportunities for veterans and their families. This year’s event was particularly significant with its record attendance, underscoring the importance and relevance of such gatherings in the veterans’ community.
A Diverse Array of Speakers and Workshops
Alongside Merryl Tengesdal, the conference featured a stellar lineup of speakers, each contributing their unique perspectives and expertise. This diverse roster included Jared Lyon (SVA National President & CEO), Hon. Denis McDonough (U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs), and representatives from various sectors like education, arts, and veteran affairs. The conference also offered an array of workshops and sessions aimed at professional development and community building, emphasizing the importance of continual learning and connection among veterans.
VA’s Role and the Path Forward
The significant presence of VA experts, offering guidance and assistance on various matters, highlighted the supportive framework available to veterans. The conference not just celebrated the veterans’ past contributions but also looked forward to their future, offering resources for their professional and personal growth.
Conclusion: A Beacon for Veterans
NatCon 2024, with Merryl Tengesdal’s keynote as a standout moment, set a new benchmark for veteran engagement, empowerment, and community building. It was not just a conference but a vibrant community platform, offering growth, hope, and support for veterans at every stage. As we reflect on the success of this event, we eagerly anticipate the continued journey of supporting and celebrating our veterans in all their future endeavors.