Justine Evirs, Ignite – Post-9/11 Veterans ’17: Smashing Stereotypes Is a Superpower

Written

Justine Evirs, Ignite – Post-9/11 Veterans ’17: Smashing Stereotypes Is a Superpower

She enlisted at 17, struggled with college debt, and now aims to set the agenda for veterans services.
July 20, 2017
Justine Evirs, Stanford Ignite – Post-9/11 Veterans participant | ToniBird Photography

During her first week in the Stanford Ignite – Post-9/11 Veterans program, Justine Evirs wrote in her journal, “I haven’t been challenged this way in a long time.”

As an enlisted Navy veteran and a first-generation college student, she was intimidated by others in her Stanford class: Many of her team cohorts had left the military as high-ranking officers and had attended elite colleges.

But she remembered how much she’d been able to help other veterans acclimate to civilian life. “My superpower is empathy,” she says.

Evirs built a career in helping veterans after her service in the Navy. For instance, at the College of San Mateo in California, she revamped a veterans program so that it was able to support 300 people. She introduced veterans to faculty members and clubs and taught them how to navigate their benefits. She’s also the volunteer director for Bunker Labs, which connects entrepreneurial veterans in the San Francisco area with Silicon Valley investors and entrepreneurs.

By anyone else’s standards, Evirs has been successful. But, she says: “I was really tired of the negative stereotypes — drug addiction, PTSD, poor little veterans — I kept hearing. I wanted to do something to change the narrative.”

As she considered her options, a friend encouraged her to apply to Stanford Ignite – Post-9/11 Veterans, a condensed four-week version of the nine-week Ignite program that’s designed to give veterans the business tools to succeed in entrepreneurial ventures.

Now halfway through the program, Evirs is bringing her experience to the table, and she’s finding herself transformed. “I’ve never been exposed to this level of education before,” she says.

I was really tired of the negative stereotypes — drug addiction, PTSD, poor little veterans — I kept hearing. I wanted to do something to change the narrative.
Justine Evirs

The very things that had made her feel that she was less than the others — such as attending a for-profit university, which left her with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and struggling to find a job after graduation — were the factors that helped her contribute real-life perspective to the team. As the team members tried to work through the details of their business idea, she cracked open the discussion by being vulnerable.

And when she started to feel defensive, as the ideas flew and different people in the room tried to take control, she reminded herself of what makes veterans different.

“We’re able to say: ‘No one died. Let’s bring it back to the task at hand.’ ”

Veterans, she knows, have earned their perspective young — and that’s a gift of great value in the business world, too.

— Elizabeth MacBride

For media inquiries, visit the Newsroom.

Explore More

October 16, 2018
Written
Students take the lead in Stanford GSB Impact Fund to manage investments in mission-driven startups.
YYoung people looking at a pie chart, contemplatively. Credit: James Steinberg
October 11, 2018
Written
Building digital economies for inclusive growth, fostering resilient societies, and investing in people are crucial, says Jim Yong Kim.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim speaks with Stanford Professor Condoleezza Rice. Credit: Elena Zhukova
October 10, 2018
Written
More than 200 Stanford Seed participants from Africa and India gather for the first time to unite in their commitment to bring prosperity to communities through the growth of businesses.
Funkidz CEO Ciiru Waithaka with past Seed participants during a company visit. | Credit: Zachary M. Saitoti