The Bell family

Sunnyland neighbors Geri L. Bell, MA, CRC, PhD and Bob Wunschel, BA, MA, USN (Retired)

Safe, affordable housing frees up returning veterans from having to worry about where they will live so they can concentrate on education and employment.

— Geri Bell

Called to Serve

What do we mean when we say ‘KulshanCLT builds community’? A community of affordable homes, yes, but it’s the people and families of KulshanCLT that are our heart and soul of this community – your neighbors, friends, and co-workers.

We sat down with Geri Bell in 2012 to learn how her life had changed in the past nine year.

Geri Bell purchased her KulshanCLT home in 2003. Her daughters, Gillian and Urvasi, in high school and middle school at that time, are now now living/working in Seattle and starting senior year at UW, respectively. Son Riley was in the Army at the time and son Dane was attending WSU. In 2005 Geri married her husband Bob, ‘college sweethearts’ who met in a sociology class at Whatcom Community College.  Following a lifelong passion to honor the veterans in her life, here’s a portion of an interview with Geri:

What made you decide to go into veterans affairs and pursue a PhD at UW? What do you hope to do with your degree?

I went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor after graduating in 2007.  I enjoyed working with the veterans who were using their VA benefits to complete their education and find employment. The veterans who are eligible for the Vocational Rehabilitation Program through the VA have service-connected disabilities and my job was to help them identify a reasonable goal for education and employment that would be sustainable, and not aggravate their disability conditions.

I loved the work, but I am curious and enjoy research.  I was intrigued with the PhD program in Rehabilitation Science at the University of Washington and was accepted to begin in the Fall of 2008. As much as I enjoyed working directly with veterans in my job as a Rehab counselor, I wanted to learn more about policy and rehabilitation, and I wanted to conduct my own research to better understand the issues veterans and their families are confronted with when they leave active duty. My father served in the Marine Corps in WWII and fought with the 6th Marine division on Okinawa. He was hospitalized with severe “shell shock” or what we now call PTSD after he came home. My husband, Bob is retired from the Navy after working for 20 years as an air traffic controller and data analyst. Bob served in both of the Persian Gulf War conflicts. And of course, my son Riley’s 9-years of service in the Army and deployment to Iraq was another reason that I wanted to understand as much as possible about military culture, the physical and psychological injuries that are unique to veterans from each conflict, and how programs and benefits are actually helping our veterans when they come home.

I have hoped to go back to work for the VA and eventually work as a Policy Analyst to help improve benefits programs and implement new policies and programs that will help veterans and their families to reintegrate into civilian society after active duty. I am starting a new job with the Department of Veterans Affairs August 13th and I am very happy to be going back to work after four years of graduate school.

Geri L. Bell, MA, CRC, finished her dissertation and earned her PhD in Rehabilitation Science at the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Washington, School of Medicine in fall 2012.