Associate director’s departure renews student concerns about veterans office

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, stepped down from her post last month, a departure the University did not initially announce publicly.

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, stepped down from her post last month, a departure the University did not initially announce publicly.

NEWS By Meredith Roaten Dec 4, 2017 3:53 AM The departure of a top veterans affairs official will leave the University’s veterans office with just three full-time employees – none of whom are veterans.

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, stepped down from her post last month, a departure the University did not initially announce publicly. Veteran student leaders said her departure is concerning because it appears to them that a dedicated leader and advocate was displeased with the direction of the office.

Pridemore will remain on campus to complete her master’s degree in business administration in the business school. The search for the next associate director has not been launched yet, officials said.

Veteran student leaders said this is the first time in six years that there are no veterans working as full-time staff in the veterans affairs office – an issue because veterans often feel comfortable talking to other service members about issues they face. Pridemore served in the Army National Guard and was off campus for a year after being called up for active-duty service in October 2016.

Pridemore did not return a request for comment.

Veterans said the office is now smaller than it has ever been since the Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards program, the University’s central academic and career veterans program, was launched in 2013.

Danielle Lico, the associate dean of students for student administrative services, said officials will post a job opening for a new associate director as soon as the required human resources processes are completed. A search committee will include student veterans as well as other “stakeholders,” she said.

She declined to say when the search committee would form.

“During this time, I remain confident that the three full-time staff members, graduate student and a team of [Department of Veterans Affairs] work study students will continue to provide excellent service to our veteran and military affiliated population,” Lico said in an email.

Andy Sonn, the director of the Military and Veteran Student Services office, will spend about 10 hours a week in the Military Community Center, the townhouse for student veterans on F Street, to get feedback and to be available for meetings, Lico said.

In September, veteran leaders were alarmed by a number of departures in the office and a lack of vision for future programming. Officials announced they would conduct a review of the office this semester to develop a strategic plan.

Lico said the office review is ongoing and will finish at the end of the semester. Short-term items to improve the office’s work will begin to be implemented next spring and be shared with experts in the field of military education for feedback, she said.

“The departmental review committee has members from the GW student veteran community, faculty and key offices who work closely with student veterans,” she said.

Tyler McManus, the former president of the GW Veterans, a student-run advocacy group for veterans, said Pridemore’s departure was another indication, after previous staff departures over the summer, that the Division of Student Affairs doesn’t have a clear plan for the future of the office.

“It feels almost as if everything we do is being pushed to the side or on the back burner in order to do something new and DSA doesn’t really know what that is,” he said.

But McManus said the review seems mostly to be surface level so far and its objectives don’t seem to be substantial.

McManus said Lico was present at the first meeting to determine how the review would be conducted but that no top administrators – including Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski – have been present at any other meetings.

“If they were truly serious about it Danielle would be in there or Peter would be in there at every meeting, not just one, to show they are sincere in their actions and not just trying to appease the larger audience, which is what it seems like they’re doing,” he said.

Yannick Baptiste, the alumni relations director for the GW Veterans, said the office has now shrunk to the size that it was about four years ago when the veteran population was smaller and major benefits programs like the Yellow Ribbon program had recently started at GW.

There are now more than 1,800 veterans at GW, according to the GW Veterans website, up from about 500 in 2013.

“You can see that this particular office has seen a pretty large devaluation in the last few years,” he said.

Baptiste said GW should make sure that Pridemore’s replacement is a veteran because students will need to turn to staff members in the office who understand their experiences.

He said veterans with non-academic issues feel more comfortable talking to another veteran and that former service members often went to Pridemore to talk through struggles in their GW experience.

Tommy Elms, the director of strategic engagement for GW Veterans, said VALOR has partnerships with outside veterans groups that could suffer in Pridemore’s absence because she was well connected.

At the end of November, the Military Times ranked GW No. 98 in a list of best four-year universities for veterans. GW’s standing has plummeted 67 spots since former Associate Provost for Military and Veteran Affairs Mel Williams left his position in early 2016. The position wasn’t refilled.

Elms said the veterans rankings aren’t reflective of the strength of the University’s program because funding plays a disproportionate role in determining where a university falls. But he said if the program continues to drop in the rankings, it will affect the reputation of the program.

“When you’re a 21-year-old kid who is on deployment and you want to get out and go to college, you search best colleges for veterans,” he said.

Annie Dobler and Sarah Roach contributed reporting.

Veterans office departures raise ‘red flag’ for former service members Amid student veterans’ concerns about the VALOR office, the Division of Student Affairs will launch a review of the office. READ MORE

This article appeared in the December 4, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/12/04/associate-directors-departure-renews-student-concerns-about-veterans-office/

Older undergraduates face social disconnect with younger peers

MEDIA CREDIT: OLIVIA ANDERSON | PHOTO EDITOR Senior Tyler McManus, 25, said there is a “stigma” separating him from his younger undergraduate classmates, who often don’t view him as a peer.

MEDIA CREDIT: OLIVIA ANDERSON | PHOTO EDITOR

Senior Tyler McManus, 25, said there is a “stigma” separating him from his younger undergraduate classmates, who often don’t view him as a peer.

NEWS By Sarah Roach Dec 4, 2017 3:53 AM Updated: Dec. 4, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.

Senior Tyler McManus was 22 years old when he walked into a first-year University Writing class three years ago as a veteran with a beard and a sleeve of tattoos – standing out from the freshmen who filled most of the seats in the Mount Vernon Campus classroom.

Now 25, McManus said there is a “stigma” separating him from his younger classmates who often don’t view him as a peer.

“People would walk their own separate ways walking down the street and I would just get looked at like, ‘who is this person at GW that doesn’t fit in?’ So it was drastic,” he said.

In interviews, nine undergraduate students older than 24 said they often feel disconnected from the rest of campus because of their age. Many said they face greater difficulties socializing with and relating to younger peers – a long-running issue among this student population.

Last year, 9 percent of GW undergraduates were older than 24 – up slightly from about 7 percent in 2012, according to statistics from the Department of Education.

Older undergraduate students comprise 30 percent of university populations nationwide, according to a New York Times report. But their advanced life experience detaches them from staples of undergraduate social life and involvement with student organizations, which primarily accommodates youthful undergraduates, experts said.

Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller said the University seeks to create communities for older undergraduates, who have often served in the military or have taken years off to volunteer or work to save up money for a college education.

“No matter what a student’s age, we seek to support every student in helping that individual find their community in the residence halls, the classroom and through a range of involvements such as Greek life and student organizations,” Miller said in an email.

Senior Hillary Hicken, 25, came to GW after she had already worked several full-time jobs, earned an associate’s degree at a community college in Texas and took an additional year off to save up money for GW after she graduated from high school.

As a freshman, Hicken said her friend group included seniors, who she said she could relate to because they were more mature. But as she gravitated toward older students, she further detached herself from younger students in her graduating class.

“Obviously you’re 18, you’re growing, you’re maturing, you’re trying to figure out who you are, but I’d already done all of that aspect of my life, so I was already set in who I am,” she said. “It was just more difficult than it was being with older students.”

Alumnus Steven Shao, 25, said the disconnect he felt with younger peers was natural because older students came from different experiences and backgrounds, might be financially independent and would rather go to bars at their legal age than an on-campus party.

“It’s just 18, 19 – this is their life experience. Conversation, I think, is the most obvious giveaway – how much they talk about high school,” Shao, who graduated in May, said. “Whereas the older folks here say, ‘I went here, I traveled here, I did this before coming to GW,’ that would be the difference.”

Junior Jesse Robinson, 26, who took time off before college to serve in the U.S. Navy, said he talks to younger students to discuss homework or class assignments, but his involvement with GW Veterans, a student-run advocacy organization, is his primary outlet for socialization. GW Veterans said at the beginning of the academic year that the group wanted to host more events with other student organizations to build connections with the rest of campus.

Robinson said sometimes he feels he is at a disadvantage because his younger peers’ friendships give them solid support systems and study partners to make them better prepared for exams.

“I’ve never walked to class with somebody, and I’ll be sitting there in a classroom, and I’ll be looking at the door, and everyone is walking in with somebody they know, and I don’t want to say it must be nice, but it must be nice,” he said.

Experts said most often, older undergraduates are separated from their peers because they have had more life and work experiences. They said getting these nontraditional students involved in University events can help close the gap between the groups.

Casey Maliszewski Luksco, the program coordinator for transfer and off-campus student life at the University of Maryland, said nontraditional undergraduates usually start college later in life because they might want to start a family, save up for college or serve in the military. She said those experiences diversify the student population on campus and bring “valued expertise” to the classroom.

“Thinking about that gateway into their experiences as well, and keeping them in mind because it’s a growing population of students that we need to serve and we need to make sure we’re thinking about their needs,” she said.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/12/04/older-undergraduates-face-social-disconnect-with-younger-peers/

This article appeared in the December 4, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.

Senior veterans affairs official steps down

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, decided to step down earlier this month and officially left her post last week, a University spokeswoman said Monday.

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, decided to step down earlier this month and officially left her post last week, a University spokeswoman said Monday.

NEWSROOM BLOG By Meredith Roaten Nov 27, 2017 5:48 PM Updated: Nov. 27, 2017 at 9:15 p.m.

A top veterans affairs official at the University has resigned.

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, decided to step down earlier this month and officially left her post last week, University spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said Monday. Officials did not previously announce her resignation.

Hamilton said there is no interim associate director and that staff in the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services are “handling the assigned duties to ensure the continuity of services.” Andrew Sonn has been serving as director of the office since May.

Pridemore is at least the third staff member to leave the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs in the last year. Departures from the office have raised concerns among student veterans about the future of veterans programs.

GW Veterans, a student-run advocacy group, announced Pridemore’s departure in a Facebook post Sunday, which included a statement from Pridemore to the GW veteran community in which she said that it was with a “heavy heart and mixed emotions” that she decided to step down.

“I have been challenged and rewarded in this position in ways I never expected and I don’t think will be replicated,” she said in the statement. “However, all good things much come to an end and I have decided it is time to move on.”

She added that she will remain at GW as a graduate student in the School of Business.

Pridemore did not immediately return a request for comment.

In the post, GW Veterans said the group was “saddened” by Pridemore’s departure and thanked her for her work with current and former student service members.

“She has accomplished so much for GW’s military community and we are excited to see what the future holds for her,” the group wrote in a statement.

Pridemore came to the University in 2014 to replace the former associate director Mike Ruybal. She took a leave of absence from her post beginning in October 2016 after being called up for active-duty military service. She returned to campus this fall.

During her tenure, Pridemore oversaw GW’s veterans’ services program, which received a national award in 2015. Last year the University increased funding for the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides funding to student veterans for tuition and fees not covered by the G.I. Bill.

But in recent months a series of staff exits from the office has alarmed student veterans. Officials announced in September that the University would conduct a review of the office and develop a strategic plan for the future of its operations.

The review came after the associate provost for military and veteran affairs position was eliminated and the veterans office moved under the Division of Student Affairs amid staff cuts in 2016.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction: The Hatchet incorrectly referred to Victoria Pridemore as the top veterans affairs official at the University. She is the associate director of the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services. Andrew Sonn has led the office since May. We regret this error.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/11/27/veterans-office-director-steps-down/

GW Honors Veterans

Veterans Day 2017 brought university community members together at Veterans Memorial Park to honor the university's military and veteran students, faculty and staff. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

Veterans Day 2017 brought university community members together at Veterans Memorial Park to honor the university's military and veteran students, faculty and staff. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

University community members, including George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc, attend wreath-laying ceremony Friday on Kogan Plaza.

November 10, 2017 George Washington University students, faculty and staff gathered Friday at Veterans Memorial Park on the Foggy Bottom Campus to commemorate Veterans Day 2017.

During his keynote remarks, GW President Thomas LeBlanc noted that Veterans Day makes him think about family: His father and two of his brothers served in branches of the military.

Dr. LeBlanc also emphasized the transformative power of higher education on individuals—including U.S. student veterans, many of whom are able to use Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend college.

“GW has a unique opportunity to continue to support these veterans,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “GW has already educated veterans in leadership roles today, like [U.S.] Sen. Tammy Duckworth. I expect we will see many of our past, current and future student veterans taking on leadership roles through public service or high-profile industry roles—and quietly, through leadership in their chosen industry or local communities. The veterans who attend GW strengthen our university, strengthen the student experience and bring honor to our institution.”

Veterans Day Wreath-Laying Ceremony

(Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

(Logan Werlinger/GW Today)

Friday’s ceremony also included remarks from Tyler McManus, GW Veterans president, Victoria Pridemore, associate director of the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, and Hank Molinengo, senior associate dean for administrative affairs and professor at GW Law, as well as a presentation of the wreath.

The ceremony was planned by the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services and GW Veterans and was part of a week’s worth of events for the GW community to honor veteran and military students, faculty and staff.

GW continued its commitment to military and veteran students by expanding its Yellow Ribbon Program benefits last June. The university has been named a “Best for Vets” university by Military Times since 2010 and has been listed among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.

LeBlanc, GW honors military students at Veterans Day service

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, spoke at the Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony in Kogan Plaza Friday morning.

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER 

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, spoke at the Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony in Kogan Plaza Friday morning.

NEWSROOM BLOG By Kate Anderson Nov 10, 2017 9:05 PM About 30 people gathered in Kogan Plaza Friday morning for the annual Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony to honor veterans and current military personnel.

The ceremony opened with the presentation of colors by the GW NROTC Color Guard, while Anthony Evans, a 2015 graduate and the former president of GW Veterans, played the National Anthem on the saxophone.

Attendees heard speeches from keynote speaker University President Thomas LeBlanc and members of the GW military community, which includes more than 1,800 military-affiliated students.

  1. Veterans strengthening GW

LeBlanc, who has military connections through his father and brothers, said he expects to see past, current and future student veterans taking on leadership roles in public and private services.

“The veterans who attend GW strengthen our University, strengthen the student experience and bring honor to our institution,” LeBlanc said in his keynote speech. “We’re delighted to have you here at GW.”

GW has a unique opportunity to support and continue supporting veterans today through education, LeBlanc said. He concluded by wishing student veterans the best of luck as they continue on their journey through GW.

  1. ‘Every veteran has a story’

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services and a platoon sergeant for the Virginia Army National Guard, spoke about how veterans’ stories are “the stories of our generation.”

Pridemore mentioned several current day veterans who tell their stories in their everyday lives, one being Emanuel Johnson — a Navy veteran who graduated from the Columbian College of Arts and Science this spring and previously served as the president of GW Veterans.

Johnson took his experience working with veterans at GW to Illinois, where he currently works with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, distributing grants to nonprofits helping veterans, she said. Johnson, along with many others, is telling his story through his actions in his job and daily life, she said.

“Together, we must write the story of our wars and our generation,” Pridemore said. “Every veteran has a story to tell and every veteran’s story matters.”

  1. Family sacrifice

Hank Molinengo, senior associate dean for administrative affairs at the law school and a retired Navy Rear Admiral, said veterans and their families have sacrificed a lot to serve.

“Veterans are synonymous with sacrifice and service,” Molinengo said.

For many veterans, service was important enough to endure a long time away from their family, Molinengo said. The families of veterans are also synonymous with sacrifice, he said.

Molinengo said he was in the Pentagon on 9/11 and when he got home, the first thing reported to him was that his 13-year-old daughter’s school provided counseling to military children whose parents might have been lost or injured in the attack.

“When this happened, it brought home to everyone that frankly, in this war on terror, that all of us are on the front lines,” Molinengo said.

Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. citizens can claim the title veteran and less than 1 percent are currently defending the country, he said.

“We need to remind our fellow citizens who have not had the opportunity to serve what it means to serve in the military,” he said. “Veterans have given us freedom and security. It is impossible to put a price on that.”

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/11/10/leblanc-gw-honors-military-students-at-veterans-day-service/

Veterans Week to Commemorate GW Service Members

The Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony is the week's keystone event. (William Atkins/GW Today)

The Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony is the week's keystone event. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Events include screenings, service opportunities and traditional Veterans Day ceremony.

The George Washington University, the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services and GW Veterans have lined up a week’s worth of events for the GW community to honor veteran and military students, faculty and staff.

“President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the first Veterans Day proclamation in 1954 inviting all Americans to ‘join hands in common purpose’ and ensure the observance of a day dedicated to veterans,” said Victoria Pridemore, associate director of military and veteran student services. “At GW we hold on to this tradition by honoring all those who served and celebrating the diversity of our campus though numerous activities. We invite all students, faculty and staff to join us at any or all of the events held between Nov. 6 and Nov. 11."

Activities scheduled for this week include a letter-writing campaign for deployed troops Wednesday on Kogan Plaza from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday’s GW Veterans’ Art Show; and the men’s basketball game against Howard University, featuring a “Vets vs. Cadets” halftime exhibition, Saturday at 7 p.m.

Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Satterly, on whose team the Oscar-winning film “Black Hawk Down” was based, will speak Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Marvin Center Room 403. Mr. Satterly is an advocate for veterans on issues including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention.

The week’s keystone event is the traditional wreath-laying ceremony, to be held on Kogan Plaza Friday at 10 a.m. Speakers will include George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc.

GW continued its commitment to military and veteran students by expanding its Yellow Ribbon Program benefits last June. The university has been named a “Best for Vets” university by Military Times since 2010 and has been listed among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.

https://gwtoday.gwu.edu/veterans-week-commemorate-gw-service-members

Student veteran draws support for War on Terror memorial – with help from his beard

MEDIA CREDIT: AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER George Chewning, a second-year graduate student in the business school, helped pass a bill to create a memorial for those who have lost their lives in the War on Terror.

MEDIA CREDIT: AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

George Chewning, a second-year graduate student in the business school, helped pass a bill to create a memorial for those who have lost their lives in the War on Terror.

NEWS By Meredith Roaten Sep 13, 2017 11:55 PM It’s hard to miss George Chewning, a towering second year MBA student who sports a bushy, red beard sprouting from his face. It was that beard – and Chewning’s passion for the subject – that senators and representatives remembered when they voted last summer to build a memorial to those lost in the War on Terror, colleagues said.

Andrew Brennan, the founder of the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, said that without Chewning as the group’s director of governmental affairs, a bill authorizing a monument on the National Mall to be built by 2024 would have never passed so quickly.

“You wouldn’t believe, everyone remembers who he is,” Brennan said. “George’s beard was definitely a novel part of his efforts with our organization.”

Brennan said he started the organization in 2014 after deciding to challenge an existing law banning federal memorials from being built until a decade after the war they are memorializing has ended. He spent two years pulling together a team, making the organization public and then started lobbying last year.

In July, the bill was approved by both houses of Congress and President Donald Trump signed it into law last month.

It wasn’t only Chewning’s unique look, but his work ethic and passion for the issue that made his lobbying so effective and pushed the issue to the floor of the House and Senate, Brennan said.

The memorial has support from various veterans organizations like Team Red White and Blue, the Wounded Warrior Project and Team Rubicon, but Brennan said it will need all the help it can get to raise the $40 million in donations needed to build the monument.

After Chewning returned about a year ago from a deployment in Afghanistan as an Army operations planner, Brennan’s sister reached out to him to help with the memorial project because she knew he was attending GW and would be in D.C. He said Chewning was eager to help.

He said Chewning shadowed an experienced team member from the group in a few meetings with senators before he was thrown into one-on-one conversations himself, trying to convince organizations and representatives to back the legislation. Chewning, who studied sociology at West Point and then spent five years in the Army, had no prior political experience.

“It was tough at first because I had just come from the Army and had never done anything political before, so I was just learning on the job which was exciting,” Chewning said.

It wasn’t a hard sell, but he said he told everyone he met with that it was so important to memorlize fallen soldiers and educate people about the war.

“It’s really a place where people can come together and heal and remember the men and women they lost,” he said. “But also as an educational tool so people can bring their family and say ‘hey this is what I did for 10 years, this is what it was for, this is why I was gone all this time.”’

Chewning said the work was an opportunity to give back to the veteran community after he put away his uniform. He said the lobbying effort was worth it because if he hadn’t convinced elected officials to back the project, people who dedicated their lives to the war might not have received the recognition they deserve – at least not on the hallowed ground of the National Mall.

“Their families say they understand what happened over there, but this is really a chance for them to have a conversation about it and come to the nation’s capitol and share with their brothers and sisters and families in that experience,” he said.

Now, as the organization turns it’s attention to getting the memorial built, the group wants to involve as many veterans as possible in the process of designing the monument and selecting a site on the Mall, he said.

“The memorial is going to mean something different to everybody,” he said. “Having different veterans from different services, different ranks, different years of services, we’re trying to get that collective image of what everybody needs.”

Annie Dobler contributed reporting.

This article appeared in the September 14, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/09/13/student-veteran-draws-support-for-war-on-terror-memorial-with-help-from-his-beard/

Veterans, students honor 9/11 first responders at candlelight vigil

MEDIA CREDIT: DEREK LONG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER A group of student organizations held a vigil to honor 9/11 first responders in Kogan Plaza Monday night, the sixteenth anniversary of the terror attacks.  

MEDIA CREDIT: DEREK LONG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER A group of student organizations held a vigil to honor 9/11 first responders in Kogan Plaza Monday night, the sixteenth anniversary of the terror attacks.

 

NEWSROOM BLOG By Taylor Galgano Sep 12, 2017 8:30 PM Updated: Sept. 13, 2017 at 1:10 p.m.

About 100 people gathered in Kogan Plaza Monday night for a candlelight vigil to honor the first responders who charged into danger during the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

On the 16th anniversary of the attacks, three first responders to the crash at the Pentagon spoke to the crowd about how the events of that day changed their lives and taught them about the value of serving their country.

GW Veterans and Sigma Delta Tau co-sponsored the vigil with the Panhellenic Association, the Interfraternity Council, Class Council and several other student organizations.

Here’s what you missed from the event.

‘The greatest job in the world’ Capt. Gregg Karl, the first speaker at the vigil, was originally off from work the day of the attack but quickly headed to the Pentagon after it was struck. He worked through the night and into the following day with emergency crews searching for spot fires in the still smoldering building and retrieving files and computers.

“It’s one of those things that as a rookie, I’m thinking to myself ‘what did I get myself into.’ But I’ll be honest with you, this is the greatest job in the world, to be a firefighter,” he told attendees at the event.

Karl said the response he and his fellow crew members received from the public in the aftermath of the attacks was overwhelming.

“It was one of those things when you felt the pride and hearing people come by the fire station and seeing people clap along side the street,” he said. “Seeing all of you here tonight really, really makes me proud to be a first responder, to be there for you in the event that you ever need it.”

Remembering the fallen Andrea Kaiser had about seven years of experience as a first responder when she saw hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 veer into the Pentagon directly in front of her.

“When I looked up, all I saw was a mushroom, like an atomic bomb,” Kaiser said, “And my heart starting beating fast, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, now we’re under attack.’”

She said the scene resembled a warzone and the team grabbed everything they could, unsure if they would survive. Many of her fellow firefighters did not make it out of the building alive, she said.

“I just want to thank you, and I feel very blessed to be here because a lot of my comrades and fellow female firefighters in New York did not have the opportunity to speak today,” she said.

Good from evil Frank Miller was on Ladder 10 truck that was dispatched to the Pentagon. He said the tragedy made him realize the United States was a place where people persevered through tragedy.

“Even though an evil occurred, something came about it,” he said.

He said the inferno engulfing the Pentagon so hot that his mask melted and his coat caught on fire. He wasn’t sure he wasn’t going to make it out alive, he said.

“I grabbed my rookie, who is now a captain, and I told him to get ready and call whoever he loves because we didn’t know if we were going to come back,” Miller said. “And I called at least my brother and said ‘I love you. I’ll see you later.’”

Editor’s note: An earlier correction posted in this story was not accurate. The post has been updated to reflect the original facts presented.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/09/12/veterans-and-students-honor-911-first-responders-at-candlelight-vigil/

Veterans office departures raise ‘red flag’ for former service members

By Meredith Roaten Sep 11, 2017 2:40 AM

MEDIA CREDIT: OLIVIA ANDERSON | PHOTO EDITOR Five staff members – three of whom have not been replaced – have either left the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services or taken a leave of absence in the last 18 months

MEDIA CREDIT: OLIVIA ANDERSON | PHOTO EDITOR

Five staff members – three of whom have not been replaced – have either left the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services or taken a leave of absence in the last 18 months

After a string of administrative departures in the veterans affairs office, student veterans say they have been left in the dark and in search of answers about the future of the office.

Five staff members – three of whom have not been replaced – have either left the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services or taken a leave of absence in the last 18 months, leaving some student veterans questioning the University’s commitment to veteran-specific programs and frustrated with the lack of transparency from the office. Officials said this fall they will conduct a review of the office and look to develop a future vision for its programs.

About 1,860 veterans arrived back on campus this fall to find Stephanie Erwin, project manager for academic initiatives and online education at the Veterans Accelerate Learning Opportunities and Rewards office, had been dismissed without warning, student veterans said.

Her departure surprised veterans on campus who said they didn’t know she was leaving until she packed up her office. The community still hasn’t been given an explanation for her departure, a veteran leader said.

Peter Konwerski, the vice provost and dean of student affairs, declined to say why Erwin’s position was eliminated or give details about the budget for VALOR, the University’s program that provides academic, career and financial support to military and veteran students.

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veterans student services, was called for active-duty military service last fall, but will eventually return to the University, officials have said in the past.

Devin Belzer took over as interim associate director when Pridemore left until she moved to the business school in the middle of the spring semester to become program manager of graduate programs.

Konwerski said the office was restructured over the past 18 months to prioritize processing students veterans’ benefits through programs like the Yellow Ribbon program and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provide veterans with services like healthcare and tuition scholarships.

He said this fall the VALOR staff will work with student veterans to conduct a review of the office and develop a strategic plan for the future of its operations. There are currently four full-time staff members in the office along with several supporting staff members, Konwerski said.

“We value the contributions our military and veteran students bring to our University community and we will continue to provide these students with services and support that meet their unique needs,” he said in an email.

A former employee of the VALOR office, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about the program, said the lack of communication between VALOR staff and senior officals has been causing frustration with veterans in recent months.

Staff are very dedicated to the program and student veterans, the person said, but staff often need to work overtime just to fufill the basic functions of the office.

“Having an overall vision of where they will go next, rather than just meeting minimum requirements, I think is imperative to the office’s success,” the former employee said.

Yannick Baptiste, the former president and current alumni relations chair of GW Veterans, a veterans advocacy student group, said he was surprised that staff positions would be slashed while the population of student veterans on campus continues to increase.

“The intent a couple of years ago was to be one of the most military-friendly schools,” Baptiste said. “I think the question is, is that still there and how do they plan to do it with less staff and less money?”

In past years, the University committed millions of dollars to programs – including VALOR – to help veterans afford GW and made increasing veteran enrollment a goal of the strategic plan as part of an effort to establish itself as one of the top universities for former service members.

Veterans currently make up more than 7 percent of all students, according to the GW Veterans’ website.

Baptiste, who graduated last spring, said the lack of staff and frequent employee changes have left the office without the resources to create new programming. He said he’s confident staff will continue to maintain and support traditional programs like the Yellow Ribbon program, which gives veterans additional financial aid not covered by federal GI bill.

Tyler McManus, the president of the GW Veterans, said the staff departures – especially Erwin’s unannounced move – made him question future plans for veterans programs. He said that the office restructuring would have necessitated a significant cut in its budget.

“It kind of threw up a red flag, like what’s going on,” he said.

Mel Williams, former associate provost of military and veteran student affairs and the highest-ranking veterans affairs official, left the University last year. The office was then moved under the Division of Student Affairs. Williams helped raise GW’s ranking on the Military Times’ list of best schools for veterans during his tenure, but this year GW’s ranking plummeted more than 50 spots following his departure.

Ronald Wreck, the program director of VALOR at Hampton Roads, GW’s education center in southern Virginia, also left in 2016 — months after Williams, according to his LinkedIn page.

Deane Highby, the townhouse manager at the Military Resource Center and the financial manager at the Office of Academic Integrity, splits time between both offices, McManus said.

After former University President Steven Knapp announced budget cuts for all administrative units, Andrew Sonn took over both the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the veterans affairs office in 2016.

In May, Sonn’s position in the Division of Student Affairs as an assistant dean was dissolved and he now focuses only a veteran’s affairs.

McManus said this academic year he plans to push for more transparency and communication from the office – a seperate entity from GW Veterans.

Since veterans affairs moved under the DSA, the group launched its own projects like opening a veterans resource center on F Street.

“We can do that as a student organization, while as employees of the University they cannot,” McManus said. “If they cut every member of the staff, our organization would still thrive.”

This article appeared in the September 11, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/09/11/veterans-office-departures-raise-red-flag-for-former-service-members/

GW Veterans to host more events, connect with traditional students

MEDIA CREDIT: AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sophomore Jesse Robinson, the vice president of GW Veterans, said having someone to talk to in class can be a vital resource for veterans who sometimes feel alienated from campus life.


MEDIA CREDIT: AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Sophomore Jesse Robinson, the vice president of GW Veterans, said having someone to talk to in class can be a vital resource for veterans who sometimes feel alienated from campus life.

NEWS By Meredith Roaten Sep 5, 2017 12:59 AM Updated: September 6, 2017 at 1:28 p.m.

The GW Veterans are stepping up their event programing this academic year to build closer connections between student veterans and more traditional students.

Tyler McManus, the president of GW Veterans, said an increase in funding from the Student Association allowed the group to plan about 60 events for the fall, compared to about 40 events a year ago. Many of the events will be organized with other student organizations to allow student veterans – who are typically older than most undergraduates – to feel more apart of the campus culture, McManus said.

Last spring the SA tapped into unspent funds from previous years, giving the finance committee a roughly $300,000 increase in the amount of money it doles out to student groups and setting aside more for co-sponsorships given throughout the year.

GW Veterans was given $4,500 from this fiscal year, according to the SA’s budget – more than double it’s allocation from a year ago.

McManus said he wants to bring groups together for events on campus with differing perspectives, like the GW College Democrats and the GW College Republicans, because veterans at GW hold a wide range of political perspectives, though the organization is officially nonpartisan. He said student veterans want to play a role in bridging the political divide on campus.

The events will help build relationships between student veterans and more traditional students that will be beneficial to both groups, McManus said.

Veterans have traveled all over the world and have a lot of life experience and skills to offer other students, he said. While younger, more traditional students can potentially help veterans with school work or adjusting to life on campus, McManus added.

“I might not be the best student and I need help in a certain class and so I can get tutoring from these traditional students who have done classwork very well,” he said. “But some of them, this might be their first time away from home or they might be dealing with a family loss and so I can give back through my life experiences of already having gone through this.”

Sophomore Jesse Robinson, the vice president of GW Veterans, said having someone to talk to in class can be a vital for veterans who can sometimes feel alienated from campus life.

“What’s hard is not being in the military, it’s what comes with that. Being older and not being able to relate to people,” he said. “Once you get to meet with somebody outside the classroom and then once you see them inside the classroom, it makes it so much easier.”

Robinson said he didn’t know anyone when he moved to D.C. last August for his first year at GW. He commuted from Arlington, Va. and rarely came to campus for anything other than class, he said.

Graduate student Tommy Elms, the former vice president of GW Veterans, said after a heavy focus on internal projects for student veterans, like getting their own resource center on F Street, the group can now shift to a more outward-looking perspective and work on getting its membership more involved in campus student life.

Jazmin Kay, the president of the GW College Democrats, said the group is reaching out to GW Vets and GW College Republicans to plan a community service event on Veterans Day. Kay said the organization also plans to be involved with the 9/11 Vigil and Remembrance event, which groups like GW Veterans, Sigma Delta Tau and GW Women in International Security will co-host, according to a Facebook event.

“I think that right now politics is something that affects everyone’s daily lives, and I think that especially engaging with veterans who bring such a unique experience and also commitment to public service is a really, really natural partnership,” Kay said.

The GW Veterans plan to partner with the GW Republicans during the fall semester but have not yet announced an event. Sara Dougherty, the director of public relations for the GW Republicans, said the group will be involved in the Veteran’s Day event and plans to be involved in veteran advocacy.

“Veterans do not all have the same opinions about how they can best be supported, so it is important that our two parties work together to support our veterans,” Dougherty said in an email.

Military Mile Memorial March approaches Annual - event takes place April 29

17504965_1334064970003506_7147058151043467519_o.jpg

Olivia Sieff - The Rival GW

On April 29, the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services and GW Veterans hosts the 4th Annual Military Mile Memorial March. This was created to honor current and past members of the military, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Ashley Moore, a current Graduate Fellow in the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, assists with programming and events, as well as promoting engagement throughout the GW community. She said the 5K run/walk event, commonly referred to as the "M4," will occur through the National Mall and Memorial parks.

“This year, the theme is the Purple Heart. Participants will hear a history of the military aware and stories about GW students, faculty and staff who have received the Purple Heart,” Moore said. “While at the National World War II Memorial, participants will get the opportunity to meet and thank prior generation Veterans through Honor Flight Network," she stated.

According to Moore, the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services assists GW students with their education by being a reliable source of information regarding services for military-affiliated students on campus and in the community. It also hosts multiple events throughout the year.

“In addition to the M4 and The Ribbon Project, we also work with other offices on campus throughout the year to produce a full lineup of events during Veterans Week in November, career planning, site visits, The Pitch, Valor in Politics, Veterans Day of Service, and more,” Moore said.

Yannick Baptiste, president of the student organization GW Veterans, said the M4 consists of three segments, which aim to honor the past, present, and future of the GW military community. The event includes the themed tour of the memorials, a lunch honoring graduating students, and a program to welcome in the new Executive Board of GW Veterans according to Baptiste.

“We really wanted to do an early Memorial Day celebration, which the first aspect of the past definitely aims to do,” Baptiste said. “Then the second portion, or the present, we really wanted to celebrate the successes of our students and then of course the passing of the batton is a representation of the future.”

Baptiste also said one of the main goals of the event is to generate community involvement and awareness of veterans at GW and across the country. “Whether it’s here on campus, whether it’s in the Capitol, on the Hill. When it comes to veterans in the future, it can’t just be this small portion of the population talking about veterans,” Baptiste said. “That’s really the big picture."

The M4 is a family and dog friendly community event, with all members of the GW and broader D.C. community encouraged to participate and honor the military population. More information is available through both the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services and GW Veterans' websites and Facebook pages.

Wounded in Afghanistan, GW veteran crosses the Boston Marathon finish line

Adam Popp, a first-year graduate student and Air Force veteran, ran the Boston Marathon alongside tens of thousands of runners last week.

MEDIA CREDIT: COURTESY BY ADAM POPP Adam Popp, a first-year graduate student and Air Force veteran, ran the Boston Marathon alongside tens of thousands of runners last week.

MEDIA CREDIT: COURTESY BY ADAM POPP

Adam Popp, a first-year graduate student and Air Force veteran, ran the Boston Marathon alongside tens of thousands of runners last week.

By Meredith Roaten Apr 24, 2017 1:53 AM

First-year graduate student and U.S. Air Force veteran Adam Popp ran the Boston Marathon alongside tens of thousands of runners last week. But for Popp, the journey to the finish line wasn’t so simple.

Eight years ago, doctors told Popp, a rehabilitation counseling major, that he couldn’t run anymore because of complications from his amputated right leg.

In December 2007, Popp, a member of an Air Force unit that disarmed improvised explosive devices, was on patrol in Eastern Afghanistan when an IED detonated before he could disable it, severely wounding him and forcing his right leg to be amputated above the knee.

Popp returned to the United States to recover at Walter Reed Medical Center, a military hospital in Maryland, where he stayed for more than a year. Doctors told him to avoid high-impact activities after he developed a hip condition resulting from the surgery.

But in 2015, Popp got his first prosthetic running leg to prepare for a Ski to Sea race, a multi-sport charity event in Washington state, and he started to run again.

“To find out that I still have that in me, that I never had it taken away from me, that I shouldn’t take that for granted, that’s why I continue to do it,” he said. “That’s something that I can’t give up on.”

COURTESY BY ADAM POPP

COURTESY BY ADAM POPP

He started small, running in circles at parking lots to rebuild strength. Popp said that after he avoided that kind of physical activity for eight years, getting back in shape was brutal.

“I went from sitting on the couch not running or doing any cardio to trying to run,” Popp said. “After that I figured out that I could do this activity and I just started to train quite a bit.”

Popp started training to run a half marathon for Air Force veterans later in 2015 and then set his sights even higher. Seven months after running for the first time on his prosthetic leg, Popp ran his first marathon in Virginia, finishing in 3 hours and 44 minutes, an 8 minute 30-second mile pace.

“I ran that half marathon faster with my prosthetic leg than I ran when I had two legs,” Popp said.

Popp ran several more marathons and other races since, including the famed Boston Marathon on April 17. But despite finishing second among mobility impaired runners, he wasn’t satisfied with his finishing time of 4 hours and 10 minutes.

Running didn’t interest Popp until after his tour with the Air Force. Although he wasn’t always a long distance runner, he now runs four to five miles every day.

“It’s an escape for me,” Popp said. “It’s my meditation. I let all my thoughts go.”

Popp came to GW last fall to start his program in rehabilitation counseling, a topic he said he wouldn’t have considered studying if it wasn’t for his running career.

“Setting these goals and waking up every day to try to be a better person has spilled into other areas of my life,” he said. “That’s why I do it everyday.”

Yannick Baptiste, the president of the student group GW Veterans, said he admired Popp’s fire and optimism, not only in his running.

Popp began helping other military veterans while still recovering at Walter Reed. Now he volunteers for veterans groups like Team Red White and Blue, the EOD Warrior Foundation and the Air Force Wounded Warrior program by coordinating and organizing teams for different races and taking veterans on recreational rehabilitation activities.

“His heart and soul is in it,” Baptiste said. “Anytime he comes around, he definitely brightens the room and brings positivity despite the odds.”

Popp was awarded the Pat Tillman Scholarship in 2016, a scholarship for veterans and their spouses who show strong academics, a record of community service and leadership potential.

Popp said he hopes to run the Boston Marathon again someday, but he has already shifted his focus to his next goal: the Paratriathlon National Championships. He qualified in March for the national competition, set to be held in Wisconsin this June.

Popp said watching the success of other athletes who were wounded in combat inspires him in his journey, but that isn’t the reason why he runs today.

“It really prompted me to get where I am today,” he said. “I hope just leading by example that I can do that for others.”

This article appeared in the April 24, 2017 issue of the Hatchet.

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2017/04/24/wounded-in-afghanistan-gw-veteran-crosses-the-boston-marathon-finish-line/

GW Veterans and Others Complete Day of Service

Event honored President Knapp for his support of veterans during his tenure leading the university.
 

Dr. Knapp accepts a gift of thanks from Yannick Baptiste of GW Veterans. (William Atkins/GW Today)

March 27, 2017

By B. L. Wilson

More than 150 George Washington University students and others gathered at Kogan Plaza Saturday morning before setting out to perform community service around the D.C. area—all aimed at supporting U.S. military veterans.

It was the sixth annual Veteran Day of Service organized by the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service in partnership with the Office for Veteran Students and Military Affairs and GW Vets.

“The idea is to connect military and community service,” said Amy Cohen, the executive director of the Nashman Center. “Research shows that one of the most effective ways for reintegrating veterans into civilian society is to engage them in community service.

“A lot of folks in the military make great leaders for community service because they know how to organize a project and make things happen.”

GW veteran students were joined by members of the College Democrats and Republicans, fraternity and sorority groups, Presidential Administrative Fellows and others in addition to volunteers from off-campus organizations such as AmeriCorps and a VFW Post.

After a presentation of the colors and a rousing rendition of the national anthem by student veteran Anthony Evans, civic engagement coordinator Matt Basista told the gathering, “On days like today we bind ourselves together through acts that revive our communities and build crosscutting relationships and service.”

GW has been named among Military Times’ “Best for Vets” universities since 2010 and among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.

Mr. Basista thanked George Washington President Steven Knapp for his generous support of the military and called upon the president of GW Veterans Yannick Baptiste to present a special gift to Dr. Knapp.

It was a “cajon,” a Peruvian box-shaped drum that was emblazoned with the logos of the university’s three military student organizations.

Dr. Knapp told the gathering that it was in Kogan Plaza in 2009 that GW became the first university in the region to join the Yellow Ribbon Program, a benefit under the post 9/11 GI Bill that covers the tuition of veteran graduate students. He noted that retired Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a strong supporter of the military, was present along with then-Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, M.A. ’92, now a U.S. senator from Illinois.

“Senator Duckworth has been a very important member of our community for a long time. She is actually a university alumna,” Dr. Knapp said. Ms. Duckworth was the first recipient of the university’s Colin Powell Public Service Award and will be the university’s 2017 Commencement speaker.

He said the presence of student veterans who come to the university with different life experiences serves as an example to younger students.

“They have already exhibited through their service to the nation, and in the way they continue the mission here, they become role models to other students. I think they’ve added a unique dimension to our university of which we are very proud. We’re glad to have them.”

And with that, Dr. Knapp gave the crowd a demonstration of his skills on the cajon.

The volunteers then split into groups to head to the Armed Services Retirement Home,, the National Mall and other sites to interact with veterans, help with recycling, pitch in on beautification projects and put together care packages for soldiers overseas.

As GW senior Kazuma Engelkermer, a Navy ROTC, prepared to climb above a yellow school bus, he explained, “We stress service. You’re going into military service. You’re serving others while serving the community too. What better way to serve the community than serve with and for veterans at the same time?”

One Veteran Charts a Healing Course



For many veterans, emotional and physical healing become a lifelong pursuit. One such veteran, Aaron Banas, CCAS ’19, and former Navy corpsman, has found that his path to wholeness is predicated on helping other veterans. A 2016 recipient of a VALOR Learning Supplement, Aaron has chosen to pursue a doctorate in psychology to better aid men and women who are dealing with the trauma of their own military experiences.

“Every time I see a veteran struggling to adjust to civilian life, I am reminded of myself about eight years ago, right after completing my enlistment as a Navy corpsman,” says Aaron. “I went through some rough times, but I found my way by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I came out with a clear head and an open mind, knowing that I wanted to help other veterans, and that life doesn’t have to be a constant battle.”

Aaron’s penchant for helping others began as a corpsman in hospitals, but since leaving the military, he has facilitated outdoor retreats for combat veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project. He also participates in The Mission Continues, an organization that helps returning veterans find purpose through community impact, and in partnership with Arlington County, Virginia, he created a coalition to address veteran-related issues in the community.

“As a civilian, I wanted to [help] on an even greater level because I found the light at the end of my own tunnel and wanted to help others do the same,” says Aaron. His passion for supporting veterans follows him wherever he goes; within weeks of matriculating at GW, he signed on with the Operation Educate the Educator initiative and volunteered to be the GW representative for Division 19: The Society for Military Psychology.

“I chose GW to pursue my degree for a number of reasons,” he says. “I was first drawn by the program and was later sold when I attended an open house and met the faculty—they were very warm and inviting. It just felt right. I was also impressed by the support for veterans GW offers. Many schools offer programs, but GW VALOR is the best program I am aware of.”

Aaron also expresses gratitude for receiving the VALOR Learning Supplement. “I used up the GI Bill for my undergraduate degree, so this award was extremely helpful,” he says. “As a recipient, I wish to continue to give back to the GW community through service, initiatives, and engaging whenever I can.”

He is particularly enthusiastic about the newly minted Military Resource Center, which began offering a partial menu of services this fall. “I have not yet done any work with the Military Resource Center, but I’m very excited about it,” he says. “I peer-facilitate wellness groups for veterans at the DC VA Medical Center, and I think [the Military Resource Center] would be a great space to hold similar groups.”

Clearly, Aaron’s passion is fueled by helping others, but he cites the changes he sees in the people he is working with as the true honor. For example, at one of his retreats, a recalcitrant veteran arrived wearing a baseball cap, dark sunglasses, and a full beard. He sat with his arms crossed, leaning back in his chair, not speaking to anyone. By the end of the retreat, the dark glasses were gone and the man had shaved off his beard.

“He was laughing with the others—you wouldn’t have known it was the same person,” says Aaron. “At the end of the retreats there is rarely a dry eye, as the retreats prove to be a profoundly cathartic experience. I design them as spaces for growth, communication, and healing, and I get to witness the impact on the veterans who attend. I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to lead them.” —Mary Follin

GW Marks Veterans Day

Ceremony commemorates, in part, anniversary of women’s admission to military service academies.

Unlike Memorial Day, which celebrates fallen service members, Veterans Day is set aside to thank and commemorate all who have served. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Unlike Memorial Day, which celebrates fallen service members, Veterans Day is set aside to thank and commemorate all who have served. (William Atkins/GW Today)

November 14, 2016

By Ruth Steinhardt - GW Today

The George Washington University community took time out Friday morning to celebrate Veterans Day with its traditional wreath-laying ceremony.

“We are grateful for all the contributions that student veterans make to our university,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp in his welcome. “One of those contributions is their ‘continuing the mission’ by leading and inspiring the service activities of their fellow students.”

Students, faculty and staff, including several veterans, gathered in Veterans Park on Kogan Plaza to celebrate, opening with the traditional presentation of the colors.

Keynote speakers Adam Popp and Luann Barndt, veterans themselves, explored the legacy of the American armed forces and celebrated the advantages veterans bring to GW.

Mr. Popp, who is getting his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is the recipient of a 2016 Pat Tillman Award. Mr. Popp pointed to Mr. Tillman, who gave up a lucrative football career to join the U.S. Army Rangers, as an exemplar of military values of self-sacrifice and dedication to country.

“Let us continue to remember and honor [veterans] each day by thriving in the freedom they protected,” he said.

Ms. Barndt, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a doctoral student in GSEHD’s Executive Leadership Program in Human and Organizational Learning, commemorated the 40th anniversary of women’s admission into military academies.

She shared the story of Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard’s first and only recipient of the Medal of Honor, who died on Guadalcanal in 1942. Mr. Munro’s mother, Edith, accepted a commission in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve on the same day she received her son’s medal.

“As a Gold Star mother, she transformed her loss into significant service,” said Ms. Barndt, who has two children in the military.

This year, all jobs in combat were opened to women for the first time.

“My son observed that he would be among those to integrate women into the infantry—and who better to understand the challenges that women in the military face than the son of a military mother?” Ms. Barndt said.

Ms. Barndt, Mr. Popp, GW Veterans President Yannick Baptiste and Student Association Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno presented the traditional wreath of flowers at the end of the ceremony.

GW continued its commitment to military and veteran students by expanding its Yellow Ribbon Program benefits in June. The university has been named a “Best for Vets” university by Military Times since 2010 and has been listed among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.

New writing award honors life of Marine, D.C. native

From left to right: Yannick Baptiste (President-GW Veterans), Bell Clement (Sgt. Chase's mother), Emily Niekrasz (inaugural recipient), Ely Ross (Director of DC Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs), Tyler McManus (Undergraduate Outreach Coordinator - GW Veterans)

From left to right: Yannick Baptiste (President-GW Veterans), Bell Clement (Sgt. Chase's mother), Emily Niekrasz (inaugural recipient), Ely Ross (Director of DC Mayor's Office of Veterans Affairs), Tyler McManus (Undergraduate Outreach Coordinator - GW Veterans)

by Taylor Galgano | Hatchet Reporter

Just months before Sgt. Julian Clement Chase was set to begin his first year at GW in 2012, the U.S. Marine was killed in action in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

To honor his memory, his family created a scholarship to help other students live out their son’s passions for writing and connecting with the D.C. community. The gift, a $1,000 prize that will be awarded each year by the University Writing Program, is given to students whose writing centers on the District, where Chase grew up.

Chase’s mother, Bell Clement, a professorial lecturer of history at GW, said although her son never attended the University, she hopes the gift will recognize the creative work that reflects what Chase could have created as a student.

“He was going to be making big contributions here, and we had to make that happen, nonetheless,” Clement said.

The prize will be awarded yearly to a student or students who produce pieces of writing or research “demonstrating in-depth engagement with Washington, D.C.,” according to the University Writing Program’s website.

On Thursday, Chase’s family and about 20 others gathered at the GW Museum and Textile Museum for the first award ceremony.

Chase attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Tenleytown, where he explored his creative and academic sides through writing and photography, his mother said. He joined an after-school writing program that encouraged students to journal together and brought in guest authors to speak to the group.

Even while serving overseas, Chase maintained this devotion to writing, she said.

“One of the things that I’m gladdest to know is that while he was deployed, he had begun to keep journals,” Clement said. “I had always encouraged this. Being deployed, you’re seeing some remarkable things, and you’re going to want to have a record of it.”

Clement said her son wanted to attend GW because he viewed it as a challenging institution that “valued excellence.”

“I know he wanted to be challenged,” Clement said. “It was important to him to be in a place that was demanding. He really wanted to be able to come here.”

The Clement family wanted to honor Chase's love for D.C. through the award, his mother said.

“He enjoyed bragging he was from D.C., and he was interested in the city,” Clement said. “One of the things I enjoyed was watching Julian explore Washington. If you’re a 16-year-old guy, you’re seeing the city in a much different way than your mom sees it. It was wonderful to see the city through his eyes.”

Clement said she hopes the award will encourage students to explore the city and develop research around what they find. If her son were a student, she thinks that he would have applied for similar awards, she added.

This year’s prize winners, Kaeleigh Christie and Emily Niekrasz, will split the $1,000 award.

Christie, who studied sociology before graduating in the spring, said her research about truancy in D.C. public schools that earned her the prize ended up shaping her career path.

“I am currently in law school and am more determined than ever to pursue a career where I will be in a better position to look out for others and make a difference in the community to ensure people are not being left behind,” Christie said.

Niekrasz, who is in her first year of the museum studies graduate program, won the award with her senior thesis that focused on the ties between D.C. and the Civil Rights Movement.

She said she hopes the award will encourage others to explore D.C.’s history and will commemorate Chase’s life.

“I definitely think this is a great way for him to be remembered,” Niekrasz said. “It was an awful, awful tragedy, and I really think that it’s going to be a nice way for his life to live on.”

Yannick Baptiste, the president of GW Veterans, said Chase would likely have graduated with a bachelor’s degree last year and could have been an influential part of veterans’ close-knit community.

Baptiste said he connects with Chase’s story because they had similar military backgrounds, and both were making arrangements to attend GW while they were still overseas, he said.

“I have had the opportunity to get involved with GW and all it has to offer, and Julian’s time was cut short,” Baptiste said. “I could have very well had the same fate, and remembering those I worked with and other service members like Julian, even during the most trying of days, provides perspective and the motivation to never undervalue what you have.”

Veterans resource center to open on F Street

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Contributing Photo Editor

by Taylor Galgano | Hatchet Reporter

Issue: October 2, 2016

GW Veterans officially have an on-campus community space that houses a career counselor and study space for student veterans. The group will share the F Street townhouse with VALOR.

GW Veterans officially have a dedicated space to study, access resources and socialize together on campus.

A year and a half after coming up with the idea for a resource center, the group will officially move into an F Street townhouse this month. This is the first time that student veterans have an on-campus community space and the center falls in line with officials’ promises to support veterans after the departure of their top administrator.

Yannick Baptiste, president of GW Veterans, said the group will start moving into the space before Alumni Weekend begins Oct. 27 and will be completely settled in the townhouse by Veterans Day.

The center will combine services that were already available to veteran students through VALOR, like a career counselor and assistance processing benefits, and the townhouse features a lounge and study space so students can have a “home away from home," Baptiste said.

“There are a lot of students who come for the studies, and that’s it,” Baptiste said. “This will be a place for students to go in between classes because, in general, they don’t have a place to call home.”

The space for the new resource center is located next door to the Naval ROTC offices, meaning the move will place all of the University’s military services physically closer to each other than ever before. Members of the GW military community have said this will help veterans and current students form stronger bonds.

The space is currently occupied by an office from the University Teaching and Learning Center and the STEM Academy. University officials said these two offices are moving to spaces in Gelman Library to make room for the resource center.

The center will share the space with the townhouse’s other current tenant, VALOR student services. VALOR leaders and GW Veterans have already begun writing up an agreement to ensure the two organizations remain separate while sharing a building, because GW Veterans still falls under the jurisdiction of the Center for Student Engagement as a student organization and does not report to VALOR, Baptiste said.

“Even though we’re in their building, they can’t hold that over our heads,” Baptiste said. “They don’t hold our money. They’re not in charge of us.”

After losing their top official, veteran and military students initially shared concerns that they would not be supported by administrators. Provost Forrest Maltzman confirmed in the spring that veterans affairs would be moved into the Division of Student Affairs and said he and others would continue to prioritize the student veteran community.

There are more than 1,700 military and veteran students currently enrolled at GW, according to the GW Veterans website.

GW Veterans will soon begin fundraising by seeking out corporate and private donors and applying for grants to pay for some renovations to the new center, like new carpeting, paint and decor in time for next academic year, Baptiste said. His first renovation priority is to add an extra doorway into the lounge space. The space will give student veterans a place to relax and bond with one another, which is important for building community, Baptiste added.

“The leading indicator of student veteran success on campus is community,” Baptiste said.

Andrew Sonn, assistant dean of students, said the resource center will include a resource library for military and veteran students, office space for military and veteran student organization leaders, group and individual study spaces, a conference room and the lounge.

"GW's military and veteran student resource center is a community-building, service and resource space intended to support the engagement and academic achievement of GW's more than 1,800 military and veteran students," Sonn said. “This space will be a great location to affirm GW's commitment to military and veteran students."

Sonn declined to comment on how much financial support the University will provide to the veteran center.

Over the past year, GW Veterans has been collecting support for the center from student organizations, various schools and administrators. The Alumni Association passed a resolution in support of the center in August, according to the GW Veterans website.

Jeff Fair, a 1997 alumnus of the Elliott School of International Affairs, a veteran and a member of the Alumni Association executive committee who spearheaded the association’s resolution, said the space still requires renovations to be up to par with "amazing" centers at other universities. The American Council on Education recommends that institutions create veteran resource centers, and more than 50 universities in the U.S. already have similar spaces.

Now that GW Veterans have a place to call home, Fair said he hopes they can remain in place and not have to move buildings again.

“We want to build ours to be one of the very best,” Fair said. “I'd like to see the University support GW Veterans with their renovation plans and then keep the Vets in this location for some time. I understand facilities management can be tricky, but it would be very disruptive to building a community if we moved the location."

Career, academic counselor for student veterans joins campus

 

by Rachel Ventresca | Hatchet Reporter

Issue: September 7, 2016 | News

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor VetSuccess tabled at a Welcome Week event for veterans last month. Laura Ferraro, the new VetSuccess campus counselor, joined the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services over the summer.

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

VetSuccess tabled at a Welcome Week event for veterans last month. Laura Ferraro, the new VetSuccess campus counselor, joined the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services over the summer.

A new counselor on campus will help student veterans as they navigate their ways through college.

Laura Ferraro, the new VetSuccess on Campus counselor, joined the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services over the summer. As a representative for a Department of Veterans Affairs program, she will help student veterans and qualified dependents reach their academic goals and counsel them throughout their time at GW.

Victoria Pridemore, the associate director of military and veteran student services, said having a designated counselor on campus will alleviate student veterans' stress when making medical appointments or applying for benefits.

“The academic and career outreach gives GW student veterans a leg up in transitioning to the civilian community,” Pridemore said in an email.

Ferraro hopes to focus on helping student veterans succeed academically by pairing them with tutors and presenting them with academic resources, Pridemore said. In her position, Ferraro will aid students in job searches by providing career counseling and aptitude tests.

“Student veterans are career-focused. They come to campus with a career in mind, but maybe not a path or plan," Pridemore said. "They are a unique student population who require a special support network in order to thrive."

Ferraro comes to GW from four years as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She also spent time working with wounded and ill soldiers at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to her profile on the military office website.

GW joined the VetSuccess program in summer 2013. Roger Deason previously held the role until he retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs last spring.

Yannick Baptiste, the president of GW Veterans, said there was a delay in replacing Deason at GW because the VA prioritizes replacing counselors at their headquarters before filling empty slots at universities.

Having Ferraro on campus will benefit more than 1,700 student veterans at the University because she reports directly to the Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing her to provide some services beyond GW's scope, Baptiste said.

“She is able to assist students in applying for benefits,” Baptiste said in an email, “GW VALOR Student Services processes benefits but cannot tell a student what benefits they are eligible for or recommend using one type of benefit over another.”

Baptiste said Ferraro can also provide students with referrals for specialized health care, including mental health care, from external providers and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Lisa Fells, a VetSuccess counselor at the University of Alabama, said having a vocational and career outreach counselor is an “awesome experience” for student veterans.

Fells said that students under financial and academic strains can benefit from having a counselor on their campuses.

“In a major city, all expenses the veteran can expect to incur will be higher,” Fells said. “The pressure to try to study and concentrate on school when they have to worry about possible medical stability, financial obligations and trying to keep up with school can become overwhelming without support or knowing where to turn when it gets tough.”

Nashman Center vacancies delay veterans service day

by Avery Anapol | Assistant News Editor

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor Organizations gather at the 2016 Valor tailgate and resource fair last month. Veterans' day of service is moved to next semester after staff turnover.

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Organizations gather at the 2016 Valor tailgate and resource fair last month. Veterans' day of service is moved to next semester after staff turnover.

A day of service designed for student veterans initially planned for the fall will be held off until the spring, after two people charged with running the event left the University.

The event, which connects GW student veterans with service projects for the day, was supposed to happen next month. The majority of the event’s coordination falls in the hands of a temporary employee, and student veteran leaders said that turnover in this position, among other staff changes, caused a delay in planning.

The service day is a trademark event of the Veteran Service Initiative, a student veteran effort operated through the Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. Last year’s day of service, held in October, was only the third since the initiative started in 2011.

Matthew Basista, GW Veterans’ civic engagement coordinator, said staff changes in the Nashman Center over the summer have slowed down the planning and left the event without a director.

“There was an intention to have it in the fall, but throughout the summer we experienced many shifts in staff,” Basista said. “We didn’t have a solid picture as to what we should prepare for.”

Before the summer, there were five staff members in the Nashman Center dedicated to the Veteran Service Initiative, Basista said. Now there are three — Basista, Nashman Center executive director Amy Cohen and the newly hired AmeriCorps Volunteers In Service To America, German Sanchez.

The leadership of the Veteran Service Initiative is temporary by nature: The Nashman Center employs multiple AmeriCorps VISTA fellows each year, who commit to a year of service at an organization in exchange for a monetary educational award to attend graduate school or pay off student loans. A VISTA fellow takes on the responsibility of running the Veteran Service Initiative, including the day of service.

Basista said natural turnover can present a challenge in “continuity,” because the VISTAs only serve one-year terms.

Cohen said in an email that the AmeriCorps fellow for this academic year will organize service for and with military and veteran students and families.

“We have and will continue to work with other veteran service offices and organizations across campus to create opportunities for veteran and military family service,” Cohen said.

Last year’s VISTA, Blake Lovelace, along with Charles Basden and Maurice Smith, two Nashman Center employees, made up a team that ran the third-ever day of service last fall, Basista said. Basden and Smith both left the University over the summer.

Basista said that Basden and Smith’s two now-vacant positions were “morphed” over the summer. The University is currently searching for two senior program associates to focus on service and social innovation, and academic service-learning, according to GW's jobs website. Basista said that the University has assured him that the new hires will be made by January, allowing the group the time to plan the event for sometime in March.

Yannick Baptiste, the president of GW Veterans, said the student group supports the decision to postpone the event because the originally planned date presented scheduling conflicts for many student veterans whose reserve units have obligations during the fall.

Baptiste said holding the event in the spring does present an added visibility challenge because Veterans Day in November often attracts attention to fall events. Still, holding the event in the spring means that the group will not have to compete with other veteran service organizations who put on Veterans Day events.

“This remains a component of the GW Veteran strategic plan to create well-rounded leaders and to give back to the community for the many benefits and services we enjoy,” Baptiste said. “This sense of service is ingrained into many of our members.”

Vaidehi Patel and Sam Rosin contributed reporting.