Valley Veteran Beats Breast Cancer, Homelessness to Earn Degree

by Susan Hawksworth

Army veteran Iantha Hutchinson — a breast cancer survivor — was living in a homeless shelter in Fresno in 2012 as a result of financial hardships caused by medical treatment. An online community college student at the time, she learned about the Veterans Education Program at Fresno State and was encouraged by director Dr. Daniel Bernard to participate in the first student cohort.

The program, founded in 2012, gives veterans access to resources at Fresno State and connects them to support organizations across the Central Valley.

Because of Hutchinson’s homelessness, Fresno State’s Division of Continuing and Global Education raised funds to house her in the campus dorms and to provide a meal plan while she completed the program. Hutchinson was among five veterans who graduated from the first cohort in 2013.

For many Valley veterans, returning to civilian life can be a challenge emotionally, mentally and sometimes financially. And for some, it’s further complicated by a life-threatening health condition.

After many years of struggle and frustration in school, Hutchinson was diagnosed with dyscalculia, a condition sometimes known as math dyslexia in which it is difficult to comprehend arithmetic.

“Because I was in a small class with Dr. Lance Burger

[associate professor of mathematics], I was able to get insight into how my mind processed mathematical equations,” Hutchinson says.

“What a light bulb moment that was for me. I could now move forward with a personal understanding of what, for me, had been an impediment to my academic success. Most of all, I gained confidence.”

The support and encouragement of her Fresno State professors — Burger, Dr. James Mullooly, Dr. Gary Rice and Dr. Tim Skeen — renewed her hope and desire to pursue a degree in anthropology.

When she finished the Veterans Education Program, Hutchinson was accepted at California State University, Northridge, and relocated to reconnect with family in the area. In May 2015, she graduated from Cal State Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, proudly accessorizing her commencement attire with a Fresno State stole (pictured).

The Veterans Education Program also offers veterans a parallel admission route into Fresno State. By successfully completing small group classes focused on coursework necessary for admittance into the University, student veterans can transition to matriculated status at Fresno State. The courses are available to veterans who are service-connected and/or honorably discharged.

—Susan Hawksworth is program and marketing specialist for the Division of Continuing and Global Education at Fresno State.


Visit to learn more about the Veterans Education Program.