GV Laker Vets president named finalists for Student Veteran of the Year award


Courtesy / Nodal Point Ltd. Commercial/Fashion Photography Tim Priest M.Photog.,Cr.

Jacob DeWeerd

After spending eight years in the Navy, two years studying abroad, and on the cusp of completing two majors, Cameron Zbikowski has been very busy following his passions for the last 15 years. Now, as president of Laker Vets, Grand Valley State University’s branch of Student Veterans of America (SVA), Zbikowski is one of ten finalists for Student Veteran of the Year.

Zbikowski was originally accepted to GVSU before he joined the military. But, because he could not afford to live on campus, he decided to enlist in the Navy instead. After completing his service in Key West and staying in Florida for another couple of years, Zbikowski moved back to Michigan to attend GVSU.

GVSU’s excellent student veterans program was the reason why Zbikowski decided to stick with his original college choice after such a long time. In 2019, GVSU was named a gold-level military-friendly university by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. 

Under President Mantella, Zbikowski said GVSU’s veteran’s program has gotten even better.

“The senior leadership — so President Mantella and her administration — have openly listened to our concerns and identified ways that the university can improve their services,” said Zbikowski.

He also said that Mantella helped Laker Vets upgrade the veteran’s lounge, transforming it into the new Laker Military Resource Center. The center is located in the Kirkhof Center on GVSU’s Allendale Campus.

Zbikowski joined Laker Vets and SVA in 2019 after returning from a two-year study abroad trip in Australia. Since then, he has become president of Laker Vets and a valued member of the SVA community. With nearly 1500 chapters across all 50 states and in four countries, SVA represents over 750,000 student veterans, providing helpful resources and advocacy for veterans in higher education that need a support network. 

“Student veterans are going to school and in most cases, also raising a family, working full-time jobs, and participating in student organizations all at the same time,” Zbikowski said. “They’re doing a lot, and they’re doing it as well-rounded individuals.”

Furthering his work helping student veterans, Zbikowski was also recently awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)-SVA Legislative Fellowship. This has allowed him to work with Michigan’s congressional delegation sharing ideas for legislative change benefitting student veterans. He recently pitched a proposal focused on how the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs’ Patient Advocacy Program can better help the veterans it supports.

Aside from all he does for Laker Vets, Zbikowski is double majoring in human resource management and international business. He found passions for both subjects before arriving at GVSU.

Zbikowski served in the Navy as a personnel specialist, which he described as “more or less the military’s H.R. department.” He dealt with payroll, accounting, customer service, and managing security clearances. This position was “100%” what inspired Zbikowski to pursue a human resource management major, while his time in Australia led to a passion for international business.

Despite experiencing plenty of success all over the world, Zbikowski still sees himself as an average guy. He believes that his unrelenting passion for the things that make him happy has led him to where he is today.

“I don’t consider myself anything special,” Zbikowski said. “If I’m passionate about something, I pursue it. My advice is to never settle. Pursue what makes you happy, and ultimately, in the long run, that’s how you measure success.”

More information about Laker Vets, SVA, and other resources for student veterans can be found at www.gvsu.edu/veterans/.