Columbia GS Student Veteran and Parent on the Power of Female Veteran Advocacy
Like many Columbia GS students, the campus experience for U.S. Navy veteran Ebonnie Goodfield ‘23GS has been just as defined by community involvement as it has been by academic success. Goodfield recalls jumping into student advocacy opportunities almost as soon as she stepped foot on the Morningside Heights campus in the fall of 2019, inspired by other GS female veterans in positions of leadership such as Rachel Ballew ‘20GS, then the first female President of the Military Veterans of Columbia University (MilVets), and Randee Howard ‘21GS, MilVets’ women veterans representative.
“The energy that they exuded when I got here was so welcoming and uplifting that it really set a tone with me, and it stayed with me even while we were learning remotely throughout the pandemic,” Goodfield said. “I wanted to step up and keep their vision alive of creating this comradery between female veterans that we have here at GS.”
That is exactly what Goodfield has done, serving in various leadership positions in MilVets, including as the organization’s current Vice President, and working in collaboration with fellow female veterans and the GS administration to increase resources and visibility specifically for female veterans—two things she wrote about extensively in an Op-Ed last year in the Columbia Spectator, We served too: on the experiences of female veterans. “My transition out of the military was an enlightening moment in that there were unmet needs for female veterans. A lot of the resources available to male veterans were not available to me,” Goodfield shared. “I think that comes from a societal mindset of who you think of when you think of a veteran.”
“I think it’s important for other female veterans to know that as you’re going out the door, about to graduate, please take the hand of one of the female veterans that is coming up and have her continue this strong sisterhood that has been developed here."
Goodfield has focused her work on countering these stereotypes and creating spaces that empower female veterans to connect and build community together. Working with partners from within the GS administration and broader Columbia and New York communities, Goodfield has helped shepherd initiatives aimed at supporting female veterans' physical and psychological health needs, career goals, and networks of support. These include regular Women Veteran Roundtables hosted by GS Dean Lisa Rosen-Metsch, where female student veterans, guest speakers, and female administrators gather to discuss a variety of topics. Said Goodfield of the roundtables: “they bring us all together, on equal footing and from different parts of our journeys, to simply empower each other. The female GS administrators who attend show so much encouragement to us and I feel at home every time I attend.”
Goodfield is passionate about making a strong female student veteran community a lasting feature of GS, especially in light of her upcoming graduation this spring. “I think it’s important for other female veterans to know that as you’re going out the door, about to graduate, please take the hand of one of the female veterans that is coming up and have her continue this strong sisterhood that has been developed here,” she said.
In addition to her advocacy initiatives, which has also included work to improve the University’s gender-based misconduct policies to support safety and equal opportunity for all female students on campus, Goodfield was recently named a Columbia Alumni Association Scholar and one of the inaugural participants of the Intrapreneurial Leadership Fellows Program (ILFP), a collaboration between GS and Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership. GS ILFP Fellows are specifically drawn from the female student veteran population, a testament to the value students like Goodfield bring to the entire Columbia community—and which Goodfield’s advocacy work has successfully fought to highlight.
Goodfield is also a student parent, which may lead you to wonder just where she finds the time for all her many endeavors. Asked to share advice with her fellow priority-juggling GS students, especially in relation to tackling Columbia’s demanding curriculum, Goodfield said, “First and foremost, I would definitely recommend open and honest communication with your professors. Always be respectful, but definitely make them aware of your specific situation because they’re not going to know unless you say something.”
Goodfield also endorsed keeping an eye out for extra-credit opportunities, and not hesitating to ask your academic advisor for support. Still, Goodfield acknowledged with a laugh, “my military experience with discipline and time management has definitely assisted me!”
Regarding her post-graduation plans, Goodfield said that she’s keeping her options open while prioritizing staying in New York since her son is enrolled in school here. What is clear though is that Goodfield’s future endeavors will include a commitment to continuing to advocate for female veterans and women’s rights at large, whether that’s by furthering her education through graduate study or advocating for equality through a legal or policy lens.
Every GS student brings their own unique story to their Columbia experience. When asked to capture her GS story in one sentence, Goodfield said “Nothing was able to stand in my way.”
It’s a fitting summary of Goodfield’s journey as a military veteran and student parent, and an encapsulation of the spirit that drives Goodfield’s crucial advocacy work and passionate support of her fellow female veterans.