GW Community Honors Alumni Lost on 9/11

From GW Today

Campus-wide moment of silence and remembrance ceremony mark 17th anniversary of terrorist attacks.

 A presentation of the colors by the GW Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Tuesday evening in the Marvin Center. (William Atkins/GW Today)

A presentation of the colors by the GW Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Tuesday evening in the Marvin Center. (William Atkins/GW Today)

September 12, 2018

George Washington University students, faculty and staff came together Tuesday to honor the memories of the nine GW alumni and all those who died as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The ceremony, in the Marvin Center Great Hall, included a presentation of the colors by the GW Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, a rendition of the national anthem by Millicent Scarlett, adjunct professor of music, and two musical selections by the GW Troubadours student a cappella group.

In his remarks, President Thomas LeBlanc said shining brighter than acts of hate and violence on 9/11 were acts of heroism, sacrifice and selflessness, including from GW alumni.

“We honor their memories by redoubling our resolve to effect positive change in this world and live in service to others and always remembering our alumni who died that day but are forever memorialized, on our campus and in our hearts,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

President of GW Veterans Ryan Welch and Student Association President Ashley Le read the names of the alumni lost as attendees held candles honoring:

Sara M. Clark
Andrew K. Friedman
Melissa M. Harrington Hughes
Robert F. Mace
John P. O’Neill
Todd H. Reuben
John Sammartino
Andrew Stergiopoulos
James T. Waters Jr.

  (William Atkins/GW Today)

(William Atkins/GW Today)

Hank Molinengo, senior associate dean for administrative affairs at GW Law, was a Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps captain and on another side of the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 hit the western façade of the building, he said, reflecting on the Navy’s response and his realization that service members would be called on to protect the country for many years to come.

“All I can say is the world changed that day,” he said.

The ceremony, organized in partnership by the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, Sigma Delta Tau and the Student Association, followed a campus-wide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when 17 years ago American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

Students, administrators reflect to honor 9/11 victims in Marvin Center

 MEDIA CREDIT: KEEGAN MULLEN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  Veronica Scarlett, an adjunct professor of music, sings the national anthem at the 9/11 vigil held in the Marvin Center Tuesday night.

MEDIA CREDIT: KEEGAN MULLEN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Veronica Scarlett, an adjunct professor of music, sings the national anthem at the 9/11 vigil held in the Marvin Center Tuesday night.

From the GW Hatchet
By 
Jared Gans and Lizzie Mintz Sep 11, 2018 11:18 PM

About 100 people gathered in the Marvin Center Tuesday night to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

On the 17th anniversary of the tragedy, the vigil honored those who lost their lives, including nine alumni. The event was co-sponsored by GW Military and Veteran Services, GW Veterans and Sigma Delta Tau.

The event began with musical performances by the GW Troubadours and a rendition of the national anthem by Veronica Scarlett, an adjunct professor of music. Andrew Sonn, the Military and Veteran Student Services director, introduced University President Thomas LeBlanc, who spoke briefly about how the 9/11 attacks affected GW.

LeBlanc said while many current students may not have a “personal memory” of the attacks, each of them understands the event’s significance. He added that despite “acts of hate and violence on the country’s core values,” the selfless actions of many Americans in the aftermath of the tragedy inspire hope.

“There were so many acts of heroism and sacrifice that shone brighter that day, including from alumni of this University and many selfless first responders and other unsung heroes,” LeBlanc said. “We honor their memories by redoubling our resolve to affect positive change in this world and to live in service to others.”

Hank Molinengo, the senior associate dean for administrative affairs at the law school, said he was working in the Pentagon as an executive assistant during the attack and remembers the event “like it was yesterday.”

“We were rocked out of our seats as the plane hit the opposite side of the Pentagon,” he said.

Molinengo said Pentagon employees returned to work the next day and found the building was still burning a full day after the attack.

“All I can say is the world changed that day,” he said. “125 people lost their lives in the Pentagon and about 3,000 perished in 9/11.”

Junior Gavin Coble, a member of GW Veterans, said the attacks sparked a “rare” instance of national unity, where those not directly affected by the tragedy are still touched by the 17-year-old event.

“It’s just one of those instances where you as a country or as a community come together and recognize the instant and the incredible weight it still carries on many people today,” he said.

Sophomore Vivek Thomas said although many students on campus are unable to remember where they were during the attacks in 2001 — unlike their parents — it is important for students to remember and honor those who lost their lives, so the tragedy will not be forgotten.

“The GW community has a lot of history with what happened and remembering it is important,” Thomas said. “Just as generations go on, the importance and sanctity of it will always endure.”

Freshman Regan Sweeney’s family has a strong connection to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Her father, an active duty member of the military, worked at the Pentagon, but took that day off, she said.

“I don’t know if I’d still have my dad around if he did go into work that day,” she said.

GW Enhances Military, Veteran Student Resources

 GW Veterans greet Honor Flight veterans at the World War II Memorial during the Military Mile Memorial March (M4) in April. (Photo: Zack Brodie)

GW Veterans greet Honor Flight veterans at the World War II Memorial during the Military Mile Memorial March (M4) in April. (Photo: Zack Brodie)

An increase in Yellow Ribbon Program benefits and the hiring of a new program manager are among the newly implemented changes.

June 15, 2018

By Briahnna Brown - GW TODAY

The George Washington University Office of Military and Veteran Student Services (OMVSS) announced a series of changes for the 2018-19 academic year, including an increase of Yellow Ribbon Program benefits and a new project manager.

Andrew Sonn, the director of OMVSS, said that the office is planning to expand its activities and initiatives directly related to supporting GW’s more than 1,800 military-affiliated students.

“We will continue to position GW as a leader among Yellow Ribbon participating colleges and universities,” Dr. Sonn said. “These benefits will offer each eligible student the opportunity to attend GW at little or no cost in terms of tuition and fees. 

“At the same time,” he continued, “GW offers a student community space, located at 2035 F St., NW, for military-affiliated students to study, access university and Department of Veteran Affairs services and to, in short, have a home away from home.”

GW increased its Yellow Ribbon Program contributions for eligible undergraduate and graduate students to align with tuition increases because the program is designed to match remaining tuition costs above the Post 9/11 GI Bill coverage.  

In the 2018-19 academic year, under the Yellow Ribbon Program, GW and the Department of Veteran Affairs will each contribute a maximum of $22,700 for undergraduate students, a $200 increase; $18,600 for graduate students in the Law School, a $740 increase; and $14,750 for graduate students in all other schools, a $750 increase.

The OMVSS will hold a webinar in July to help students understand the newly enacted Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, also known as the Forever GI Bill, which will bring changes to veteran education benefits over the next few years.

The office also updated its mission statement to emphasize the focus on supporting military-affiliated student success through a holistic, community-building approach, Dr. Sonn explained. To further this mission, the office welcomed Christian “Mac” Manning to the team in April, and he will serve as project manager for the office.

Mr. Manning is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who previously was a liaison and transfer admissions counselor for Stevenson University’s military and veteran services. As project manager for OMVSS, he advises the GW Veterans student organization, plans community-building activities and establishes partnerships with veteran-serving organizations across the country.

As an outdoorsman and a former college athlete, Mr. Manning is a big believer in the benefits of physical fitness for both the mind and body. He has been working on outdoor and physical fitness initiatives for military-affiliated students to build on programs OMVSS already has, such as the Military Mile Memorial March (M4) 5K Run or Walk. Mr. Manning said that physical activity is a great avenue to enrich student-university culture.

“We have a vibrant community on the GW campus, and my goal is to continue to expand that and improve upon it as best I can,” Mr. Manning said. “Every veteran is looking for something different, but they're all trying to come here for a quality and enriching educational experience, which they're going to receive.

“Our job is to connect students to the variety of resources available and to build a thriving community for military-affiliated students. I am looking forward to the 2018-2019 academic year and continuing to build community among GW students in a variety of ways.”  

Donations to sustainable move-out program hit record high

By Leah Potter and Sarah Roach Jun 11, 2018 2:49 AM

The University’s student-led sustainable clean-out service collected a record number of donations this spring.

Students leaving their residence halls dropped off more than 50,000 pounds of donations last month for Green Move-Out, an annual food, clothing and home goods collection drive at the end of the spring semester. Officials and student leaders attributed the record collection – a more than 20 percent increase since last year – to two student organizations’ revamped social media campaigns promoting the project.

The clothes, non-perishable food items, bedding, lamps, books and other accepteddonations were delivered to local charities, like GW Veterans and the Capital Area Food Bank, a D.C. food pantry.

 EMILY RECKO | GRAPHICS EDITOR  Source: Campaign GW

EMILY RECKO | GRAPHICS EDITOR

Source: Campaign GW

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said that while there were likely many reasons for the increased number of donations this year, one of the biggest factors was the University’s partnership with Campaign GW, a student organization that advocates for sustainable living. The organization advertised the program for the first time this year, launching an Instagram campaign promoting the move-out in April, she said.

The campaign featured graphics and photos of Green Move-Out volunteers posted with captions encouraging students to participate. This year, more than 100 students volunteered to work three or more shifts, Csellar said.

She said the student group sent emails to students in each residence hall and tabled in Thurston Hall to promote the initiative. Campaign GW also partnered with the Residence Hall Association to reach a larger group of potential donors and volunteers, Csellar added.

“A key factor was Campaign GW’s increased involvement in marketing and promotion of this year’s Green Move-Out throughout April to ensure students knew that their donations are truly making a positive impact on people who are in need while also helping reduce contributions to the waste stream,” she said in an email.

Csellar said that this year, officials also improved the way donated goods were transported from residence halls to the vehicles delivering the items to the charities. Shift leaders “focused on a more efficient bagging and removal of items” from drop-off sites around campus, resulting in more space for donations in bins, she said.

Green Move-Out began in 2007 as a student-led initiative to make the move-out process more environmentally friendly. The service stockpiled upward of 3,000 pounds of donations during its initial years, but that number skyrocketed to more than 50,000 pounds this spring, according to a tweet posted after Green Move-Out tallied the number.

Colin O’Brien, the student coordinator of Campaign GW, said the organization relied on email and social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to promote the initiative, where the group posted photos of volunteers to spread awareness about the clean-out.

“Having Campaign GW involved in Green Move-Out this year proved to be very successful for raising awareness about the program and gathering a substantial increase in donations,” O’Brien said in an email.

RHA President SJ Matthews said her organization’s partnership with Campaign GW helped ensure the success of the move-out this year because the two groups worked together to advertise the program to a wider audience. The RHA used its social media accounts and residence hall council meetings to promote Green Move-Out, she said.

“Between RHA and Campaign GW, we were able to get the word out to more people on campus, which contributed to the rise in donations,” Matthews said in an email.

This article appeared in the June 11, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.

Veterans office to revamp website, expand student resources after departmental review

 MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  The veterans office developed a plan to help veterans transition to higher education and connect with different communities at GW after completing a departmental review.

MEDIA CREDIT: MAX WANG | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The veterans office developed a plan to help veterans transition to higher education and connect with different communities at GW after completing a departmental review.

By Meredith Roaten Apr 23, 2018 4:23 AM

Officials announced a series of new short-term initiatives to improve veteran student life at GW earlier this semester after completing a departmental review this fall.

The review was completed in January and will result in a revamp of the veterans office website, increased funds for veteran scholarships and expanded mental health initiatives for the group. Student leaders said the 22-part action plan, a copy of which was obtained by The Hatchet, hasn’t provided any revolutionary solutions but gives officials written guidelines to follow to address some of veterans’ longest-standing complaints about issues like priority course registration.

Danielle Lico, the associate dean of students for student administrative services, said the review laid out focus areas including communication, mission statement, academics and community engagement. She said the office is establishing new initiatives, like working groups for graduate students and an academic national honor society for military and veteran students, to improve the student experience for the group.

“Our student veterans and current military students are an integral part of our GW community and we want to continue to provide a welcoming environment for them,” she said.

The report found weaknesses in areas like academic resources and marketing services, which other institutions’ veteran programs offered in the form of tutoring programs and compelling videos and images.

The office will launch a new website by the fall that includes a full list of benefits available to veterans, Lico said. In the summer, the office will host a veteran’s resource fair and an informational webinar about the Forever GI Bill – which provides benefits, like expanded tuition support, for student veterans – that went into effect in January, she said.

Veterans said they became worried about the future of the Office of Military and Veterans Student Services after seeing several staff members leave the office in recent years, some without explanation. Officials announced the review in September, and Lico said “key stakeholders” across the University met six times between November and January to discuss how to improve the veteran student experience.

More than 15 administrators participated in the review, including Andy Sonn, the director of the office, and Anne Graham, the assistant director of student involvement and Greek life. During the review process, Victoria Pridemore, the director of GW’s military students program office, left the University almost a month after returning from military leave.

Lico said the office will look for ways to engage alumni and faculty to improve the veteran student experience but did not provide additional details about the engagement.

“Our goal is to continue to enhance and adjust program offerings and services as needed based on evolving student needs,” she said.

A new program manager for the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services was hired last month, she said, bringing the total number of full-time staff in the office to four. She declined to say how the office addressed student concerns related to administrator departures.

Lico also declined to describe any challenges the review process encountered.

Student veterans said the 22 recommendations of the review give administrators and staff specific steps to follow in the long term and the short term, and although not everything is being fixed immediately, there is a plan to eventually fix issues veterans encounter.

Jesse Robinson, the president of GW Veterans, declined to comment.

Tyler McManus, the former president of GW Veterans, helped officials conduct the review of the office before he stepped down as president in November. He said changes, like updating the office’s website and educating professors about graduate student needs, were a long time coming and easy to fix.

“A lot of it was stuff that we already knew needed to be done but now we had the opportunity to formalize it,” he said.

He said the plan addresses long-standing veteran concerns about issues like military credits transferring to the University. A transfer credit working group will meet by the end of the academic year to identify problems with the transfer credit process and suggest solutions, according to the report.

“They address a lot of issues that were coming up – it’s just how they follow through,” he said.

Yannick Baptiste, who served as president of GW Veterans last year, said nothing about the action plan was surprising because the office staff know what is best for veterans and heard from students during the review process.

“OMVSS and its partners continually reevaluate their programs and services, so what I saw in the action plan was not necessarily anything newfound, but merely codifying it in a different format,” he said in an email.

This article appeared in the April 23, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.

Student veterans lobby for priority status in registering for classes

 MEDIA CREDIT: SAM HARDGROVE | ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR  Jesse Robinson, the president of the GW Veterans, met with University President Thomas LeBlanc Thursday to request the policy change.

MEDIA CREDIT: SAM HARDGROVE | ASSISTANT PHOTO EDITOR

Jesse Robinson, the president of the GW Veterans, met with University President Thomas LeBlanc Thursday to request the policy change.

NEWS By Meredith Roaten Jan 29, 2018 1:50 AM

Student veterans at GW are pressing administrators to give them first pick of classes.

A top veteran leader met with University President Thomas LeBlanc Thursday to request the policy change, which student veterans said would get rid of frustrations they face while trying to fulfill the credits needed to graduate. Former service members said priority registration would allow them to complete their education sooner, a pressure many face because they only receive federal benefits for a limited period of time.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar declined to say if the University was considering priority registration for student veterans. She said most students are able to complete all graduation requirements within eight semesters, but added that students have raised concerns about the “stress and complexity” associated with course registration at a series of listening sessions with administrators and trustees.

“It almost feels like a bait and switch when they get us in the door.” “We will look into how we can improve the process and experience,” she said in an email.

Csellar declined to say if the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services is in favor of priority registration for veterans or what the challenges are for giving priority status to specific groups. She also did not say how officials determine whether to allow certain groups to register early for classes.

GW currently gives groups like honors students and students in the NROTC program priority registration, according to their respective websites.

Jesse Robinson, the president of the GW Veterans, a student veterans advocacy organization, said LeBlanc seemed receptive to the proposal at Thursday’s meeting and told them that he would look into the current policies.

Robinson said he and other veterans are under pressure to complete their degrees quickly because federal tuition support under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill expires after 36 months. He said many veterans cannot afford to extend their education after the benefits run out, making it important that they get in to required classes.

Robinson, a sophomore, said he will have to spend an extra semester at GW because of scheduling problems, which he said is unfair.

“It almost feels like a bait and switch when they get us in the door,” he said. “GW veterans are trying to meet in the middle – whether it’s priority registration or not – just something that helps the veteran experience here so we don’t feel like we’re trapped and we weren’t just used for extra money for the school.”

Robinson said administrators seemed to be willing to help with classes or scheduling conflicts on a case-by-case basis, but much of those individual problems could be avoided by giving veterans priority registration.

“Why put us through hell trying to sign up for classes?” he said.

Last year, the national veterans advocacy organization, Student Veterans of America, helped lobby Congress to pass the Forever G.I. Bill, which almost included provisions requiring universities to give veterans priority course registration, but the measure was ultimately scrapped.

Will Hubbard, the vice president of government affairs at SVA, who helped write the legislation, said the bill did include a requirement for schools to list if they offer priority registration for veterans, which he said will help hold universities accountable if they aren’t receptive to community concerns.

“Independent institutions don’t like to be told what to do, but the fact is that they do receive federal funding,” he said.

Hubbard added that priority registration helps veterans get through college without having to take out additional loans. GW is expected to see an increase in the number of veterans because of the new legislation, which also offers expanded benefits for veterans.

In recent years, schools across the country have granted this perk to former service members – including some peer schools like Syracuse and George Mason universities.

Student veterans have advocated for a first pick at courses over the last few years. In 2014, Student Association senators lobbied for a policy change, but it wasn’t enacted.

GW’s ranking as a military-friendly school has dropped more than 50 spots since 2015, and staffing changes in the veterans affairs office have left some student veterans uncertain about the University’s dedication to the veteran community over the last year.

“As you know, priority enrollment is a critical feature for many of these young men and women who served their country.” Hubbard said his organization helped veterans at GW by giving them advice on how to pitch priority registration to administrators and also helped draft a letter to send to officials asking for their support, which Robinson gave to LeBlanc at the end of their meeting.

In the letter SVA President and CEO Jared Lyon said giving priority registration to veterans will allow them to finish their degrees on time and keep their housing stipends from the VA. Lyon said with GW’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon program and other veteran benefits are helpful to veterans, but there is more the administration can do.

“As you know, priority enrollment is a critical feature for many of these young men and women who served their country,” Lyon said in the letter. “While many schools extend priority registration to student athletes, not nearly enough have provided this important support to student veterans.”

This article appeared in the January 29, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.

New benefit bill could lead to surge in veteran enrollment, experts say

 MEDIA CREDIT: HATCHET FILE PHOTO BY AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  Jesse Robinson, a U.S. Navy veteran and the president of GW Veterans, said the Forever G.I. Bill will continue to increase the number of student veterans at universities.

MEDIA CREDIT: HATCHET FILE PHOTO BY AARON SCHWARTZ | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Jesse Robinson, a U.S. Navy veteran and the president of GW Veterans, said the Forever G.I. Bill will continue to increase the number of student veterans at universities.

NEWS By Annie Dobler Jan 25, 2018 12:35 AM

GW and other private universities could soon see a surge in veteran enrollment thanks to a new benefit bill set to fully go into effect this summer.

The Forever G.I. Bill, or Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, offers new benefits like expanded tuition support and eliminates the time limit for veterans to use educational aid. Student veterans at GW said the new bill will make a college education more affordable, resulting in more veterans attending private universities.

The new provisions, passed last August and signed into law by President Donald Trump, officially went into effect at the start of the new year, but veterans won’t be able to use the expanded aid until the fall semester.

Andy Sonn, the director of the Office of Military and Veteran Students Services, said the office is planning a webinar about the extended benefits later in the spring but is waiting for more information from the Department of the Veterans Affairs.

“For many of the provisions, we are awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on the specific implementation plan and what they will mean for students,” Sonn said in an email.

The bill enacts new measures that aim to help veterans afford a college education, including eliminating a 15-year time limit to use aid after January 2013. The bill will also expand eligibility for the Yellow Ribbon Program, a federal program that matches GW tuition support for veterans and provides extra money for STEM degrees that may take more than four years to complete.

Johnny Gadea, an active duty staff sergeant in the Marine Corps and vice president of GW Veterans, a student veterans advocacy group, said it will allow student veterans more of a choice as to where they want to attend school because the expanded eligibility makes more schools affordable.

“It would open up pretty much every university to any military member that wants to get their education,” Gadea said.

He said that previously many veterans who wanted to attend private universities like GW instead had to settle for public schools like George Mason University because they were more affordable.

Gadea said the new bill will enhance GW’s reputation as a favorable university for veterans because of the expanded Yellow Ribbon program. The program launched at GW in 2009 and received a funding boost in 2016.

Jesse Robinson, a U.S. Navy veteran and the president of GW Veterans, said the Forever G.I. Bill will continue the trend of increased veteran enrollment at universities that began with the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, enacted in 2008.

There are more than 1,800 veterans at GW, according to the GW Veterans website.

Robinson said he expects to see an even greater amount of older vets pursuing degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree because of the elimination of the 15-year expiration date of G.I. Bill benefits. He said 60 percent of GW’s student veteran population is graduate students, and that population will likely grow.

“There’s older veterans who weren’t able to use their benefits before and now they can, so if those benefits don’t have an expiration date then there’s definitely going to be more graduate and advanced programs that people are going to be seeking degrees in,” he said.

Robinson said the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services emailed student veterans about the expanded eligibility for benefits after the bill passed in August.

Ian Hourican, a junior in GW Veterans, said it’s important to start informing veterans of the support available to help finance their education while still on active duty.

“I think it starts as soon as they separate from the military, starting to educate from there and then when they start college being as clear and as transparent as possible is beneficial,” Hourican said.

The anticipated growth in enrollment comes as the veterans office has been criticized this academic year after a number of staff departures left student veterans concerned about the future of the program.

Kristofer Goldsmith, an Iraq War veteran and the founder and chairman of High Ground Veterans Advocacy, who helped advocate for the new bill in Congress, said doing away with the 15-year expiration was the most important measure in the bill.

“When you rob a veteran of their educational opportunity, you’re robbing the economy and the taxpayers of a more productive citizen,” Goldsmith said. “This bill was tremendous and it will be marked down in the arc of history of the veterans movement as a pivotal moment,” he said.

Todd Kennedy, the military and veterans program administrator at San Diego State University’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, said he doesn’t think there will be any differences between how private universities like GW and public institutions implement the new bill.

While the bill is an improvement, he said there may be some “hiccups” that aren’t recognizable until it fully goes into effect.

“When it’s being implemented, that’s when you’re always going to identify something that wasn’t thought of or that you’re going to have to work through,” he said.

This article appeared in the January 25, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.

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.

Student Donations Help Former Military Translators

GW Veterans and the GW Afghan Student Association collected home goods to help translators resettled in the D.C. area feel at home.

 Volunteers Alex Morris (l), B.S. '17, and Max Alexander, a graduate student in the School of Engineering, bring donated household goods to the Military Community Center on the Foggy Bottom Campus. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Volunteers Alex Morris (l), B.S. '17, and Max Alexander, a graduate student in the School of Engineering, bring donated household goods to the Military Community Center on the Foggy Bottom Campus. (William Atkins/GW Today)

May 25, 2017 By Kristen Mitchell

Verónica María Hoyer lifted a heavy box of home goods, balanced them on her hip and walked it into an office temporarily transformed into a storage room. Over the past two weeks, she had created a delicate system of organized chaos within the Military Community Center on the George Washington University’s Foggy Bottom Campus as piles of donations grew larger.

She found a place to set down the cardboard box and began to sift through it. The pots and pans went in a separate box. The Tupperware collection had taken over an entire table. There was another bin primarily reserved for water filters.

“See?” she said, picking one up. “This Brita pitcher is perfectly fine.”

The back door opened and slowly, a pair of volunteers wheeled in a cart stacked high with their latest haul of miscellaneous donations collected as students moved out of GW residence halls. As they unloaded the heavy cart and wiped sweat from their foreheads, Ms. Hoyer, B.A. ’17, asked about the forecast. There was a sofa to pick up, and they couldn’t risk leaving it out in the rain.

It was the day after graduation, and Ms. Hoyer was giving back. After years of seeing home goods and furniture piled up on curbs at the end of the school year, Ms. Hoyer came up with a way to give those items a second lease on life. She teamed up with No One Left Behind, a nonprofit that aids translators from Afghanistan and Iraq who have resettled in the United States after receiving Special Immigrant Visas.

These translators worked with the U.S. military in the Middle East and Afghanistan and helped soldiers communicate with locals. Because of their work, they often become targets for terrorist organizations who view them as traitors, Ms. Hoyer said. Even still, obtaining a visa can be difficult, and when they are able to come to the United States, they can bring only a few bags.

“I thought, why don’t I collect all that stuff people throw away all the time,” Ms. Hoyer said. “I know that people waste, throw away all this stuff every year, and someone needs to collect it.”

 Verónica María Hoyer, B.A. '17, organizes donated items in the Military Community Center at 2035 F St N.W. Ms. Hoyer is an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan. As an undergraduate student, she was involved with GW Veterans and the Afghan Student Association.  (William Atkins/ GW Today)

Verónica María Hoyer, B.A. '17, organizes donated items in the Military Community Center at 2035 F St N.W. Ms. Hoyer is an Air Force veteran who served in Afghanistan. As an undergraduate student, she was involved with GW Veterans and the Afghan Student Association. 
(William Atkins/ GW Today)

Ms. Hoyer knows firsthand how important these translators are to the military. She is an Air Force veteran who twice was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, where she worked in intelligence aircraft.

“My life wasn’t on the line every day, but I know that these translators saved a lot of our guys’ lives,” she said. “We owe them a lot. If you’re willing to be on the lines with us and put your lives in danger, I want to help you.”

Ms. Hoyer proposed collecting these donations as part of a joint project between GW Veterans and the GW Afghan Student Association, two organizations she was heavily involved with as a student. Volunteers set out donation boxes in 15 Foggy Bottom residence halls during finals week and returned regularly to collect any items students dropped off.

The volunteers have been veterans, members of the Afghan Student Association, other GW students and members of the Washington, D.C., community. They have been shocked by the volume of donations, said Ms. Hoyer, who added that Jorge Rios, director of operations for GW Veterans, was invaluable in running the operation.

“We were not expecting to get this much stuff, so we were completely overwhelmed,” she said. “People just started piling it up, so it would be like little mountains in the hallways.”

Volunteers collected more than five U-Haul trucks full of donations and enough items to help more than 40 families in the D.C. region. No One Left Behind has picked up items from the Military Community Center at 2035 F St N.W. every few days since finals week.

 GW students donated more than five U-Haul trucks full of items like rugs, kitchenware and plastic drawers to translators who aided the United States military in the Middle East and Afghanistan. (William Atkins/ GW Today)

GW students donated more than five U-Haul trucks full of items like rugs, kitchenware and plastic drawers to translators who aided the United States military in the Middle East and Afghanistan. (William Atkins/ GW Today)

Alex Morris, B.S. ’17 and a Navy veteran, said when he joined the military and was training to be a linguist, he learned Arabic directly from a former translator resettled in California. During his service, he saw the kinds of contributions they made to American troops and credited them for saving some of his friends when they were in need.

“They do us a service and that helps us and our efforts overseas, and because of that they are put in danger,” Mr. Morris said. “The least we could do is try and get them out of danger really and do everything we can for them.”

The donations might seem trivial, he said, but to families in need, items such as plastic pull-out drawers, bed sheets and coffee pots mean a lot.

“It really goes a long way,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s a stepping stone in the right direction.”

During one donation pick-up a former translator came to help load and unload the trucks, Ms. Hoyer said. He explained how he came from Afghanistan with his wife and three daughters and had been sleeping on the floor of their apartment.

“All we had to offer them really were the comforters that students were throwing away, the pillows, pillowcases and the mattress pads, but they were so happy to have mattress pads,” she said. “Providing these things, that is not really doing a lot, but otherwise this stuff would have been thrown away, so I think that’s a good use of it.”

Hannah Zikria-Hagemeier, who this fall will be a junior studying neuroscience and psychology, is treasurer of the Afghan Student Association. She has lived in the United States her whole life, and knows the importance of giving back to the local Afghan community.

“The opportunities that I have been given, being born here and growing up here, not really having to go through the hardships that I know other people have to go through, I feel really lucky and thankful but I also feel like I do need to give to other people who aren’t as fortunate,” she said.

These donations don’t seem like luxuries to many Americans, but for people starting new lives “it’s a real luxury just to have some necessary items,” she said.

Mike Guerrieri, national volunteer coordinator for No One Left Behind, said simple things household goods help make families feel more comfortable in their homes. Vacuum cleaners and rugs are particularly coveted items.

In Afghanistan, families often eat their meals seated on rugs the way Americans sit around a table. Without rugs, they have to sit on hard floors. Having things to furnish and clean their apartments makes these visa holders feel like they have some ownership of their space.

“It makes it a home,” Mr. Guerrieri said. “Otherwise it’s just four walls and a floor. It slowly and surely makes it a home.”

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

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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/