Veteran students excel with Bruce Lane Memorial Scholarship

Dan Palance and Devin Burkland are this year's recipients

Devin Burkland (left) and Dan Palance (right) received the Bruce Lane Memorial Scholarship established to support veteran students at UCSC.  (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

After serving the U.S. in a variety of branches of the country’s military division, many veterans decide to go back to school and further themselves in the classroom.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from 2018, nearly 700,000 veterans use VA education benefits, namely the GI Bill, to pay for college, graduate school and training programs, and that number appears to be growing. Across the University of California system of 10 schools, nearly 2,000 veterans and students with military affiliations attend. At UC Santa Cruz, veterans make up a much smaller percentage of the overall student body—but that doesn’t deflect from the support and camaraderie they find with one another, and with the support of veterans’ focused scholarships.

The Bruce Lane Memorial Scholarship was established in memory of Bruce Lane, who worked at UC Santa Cruz for 27 years as a project architect, educational facilities planner, and director of capital planning. Lane (who passed in 2008) was a volunteer for immediate induction in World War II, and left to serve the U.S. in Europe just two weeks after graduating from high school. Lane worked as a noncommissioned officer and later received the GI Bill, before then working as a commissioned engineer officer for the Army Reserves for 35 years.

His wife, Maxine Lane, continued on his legacy by founding his namesake scholarship 15 years ago to share in his passion to support UCSC’s military veteran students.

Dan Palance is one of this year’s scholarship cohort, currently in his third year in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology doctoral program. Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Palance was a commissioned officer in the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Commissioned Officer Corps for eight years. He was assigned to federal research vessels and fisheries labs across the country, spanning from Arctic Alaska to San Diego and the Gulf Coast.

At a certain point, he felt he had hit "a bit of a roadblock" in his professional trajectory and career goals, and he saw that an advanced degree would help make him more viable for permanent positions. 

In researching more about what doctoral programs he’d be interested in attending, UCSC stood out, particularly because of its serene location and world-class research in marine science.

“I love the area—I’m a super outdoorsy person, so having the mountains and ocean in the same place is ideal,” Palance said. 

Palance is primarily advised by Assistant Professor Roxanne Beltran at UCSC. In addition, he is co-advised by Elliott Hazen, a NOAA employee and UCSC adjunct professor who works out of NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey.

“We’ve done some pretty cutting-edge research equipping northern elephant seals with a suite of state-of-the-art bio-logging instruments, a field I didn’t have any previous experience in myself,” Palance said. 

Notably, this past year’s Bruce Lane award helped fund a trip to France’s La Rochelle Université to further develop and strengthen relationships with international collaborators on the elephant seal project. 

In addition, Palance is part of a coastwide project with Hazen, investigating the effects of climate change on large marine predators such as whales and their prey and the impacts on coastal communities and National Marine Sanctuaries.

As much as Palance enjoys his studies, he’s also found a great deal of joy in finding other veterans across campus and scholarship opportunities. A fellow veteran student, Andrew Lankow, introduced Palance to the veterans’ emails chain—which first introduced Palance to the Bruce Lane Memorial Scholarship. Palance received the scholarship in both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, at $1,000 per year.

“Having a bit more cash to help pay for supplies has been really nice…as well as the sense of project ownership and financial independence scholarships such as the Bruce Lane [Scholarship] help provide,” he said.

For Devin Burkland, the Bruce Lane Scholarship funding has helped him to make the most of his undergraduate experience. Burkland returned to school after serving in the U.S. Navy. About six years after leaving the service, while working odd jobs, Burkland aimed to tell his and other veterans’ stories, leading to his pursuit of a bachelor’s in history.

“I want to record veterans and their time of service, so we can preserve their stories—I think a lot of those particular stories get overlooked,” he said. “This is something I’m passionate about, and I realized this was a route I wanted to pursue.”

Burkland received his associate’s degree from Merced Community College, and in looking to transfer, decided upon UCSC. Having been stationed in San Diego, Burkland missed the ocean, and was grateful to have the chance to be near it again while working toward his higher education goals.

Further, he was able to connect with other veterans on campus, joining the Veterans Resource Center in work study and connecting with other veterans. He says his group of veterans includes between 10 to 20 close-knit people, including Jerry Cabilatazan, the veterans program coordinator.

“We feel like fish out of water—a lot of us are older, a lot of us experienced different life experiences [than other students],” Burkland said. “We remind each other that we’ve been through worse, and we support each other.”

With the Bruce Lane Scholarship, Burkland was able to purchase recording equipment to start his work, capturing veterans’ stories. He was inspired to launch this as part of his major after a visit to the national Student Veterans Association Convention in Orlando this past January, where he learned about the Veterans History Project and saw more of veterans’ stories on a national stage.

Now, Burkland can contribute to the project himself, which he says helps his fellow veterans too.

“Just talking about your time in service can be therapeutic—these stories should be told,” he said. “The scholarship has been extremely helpful; otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to buy equipment.”

Both Palance and Burkland, acknowledge that they are grateful to the scholarship and to the G.I. Bill for the opportunity to continue their studies, and they encourage their fellow student veterans to apply for the funds as well.

Burkland plans to apply for the scholarship again, and said it’s another resource that matters in his grander education trajectory.

“People do want to help us with our passions and pursue our degrees—it’s such a nice feeling knowing that there are people willing to support us,” he said.

To support the Bruce Lane Memorial Scholarship for military veteran students, visit UCSC’s Giving page, or email