A new director for military and veteran student services

by Jacqueline Thomsen | Assistant News Editor

Issue: September 25, 2014 | News

Media Credit: Photo courtesy of Victoria Pridemore.

Victoria Pridemore will lead GW's Office of Military and Veteran Student Services. She served in the Army and now serves in the National Guard.

Military and veteran student services has a new leader after the office's former associate director abruptly left the University.

GW announced Wednesday that Victoria Pridemore has taken over the office. She served in the Army and now serves in the Virginia National Guard as a platoon sergeant for the 29th Infantry Division in Fort Belvoir, Va.

Mel Williams, associate provost for military and veterans affairs and a retired vice admiral, named Pridemore an ambassador for online programs last spring. She previously worked in veteran affairs for Excelsior College and at the Veterans Innovation Center in D.C.

Pridemore said in a release that she wants to work closely with GW Veterans, a student organization for veterans and military affiliated students.

“Most of the veterans who are coming to GW are very driven, very high achievers, and they want to give their all to everything they do,” she said. “Sometimes they find the balance is harder than expected, and I’d like to help them succeed.”

The University declined repeated requests for comment on former Associate Director Mike Ruybal’s departure, citing a policy to not comment on personnel issues.

After he took the helm in 2012, Ruybal overhauled how GW supported its military students and families, helping students complete paperwork for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, pushing the University to hire a specialized clinician and starting veterans-centered programs. He oversaw the Ribbon Project, which immerses non-military students, faculty and staff in military life for a day, and the Transition Assistance Guidance Support program, which connects new military students with peer mentors.

Devin Belzer, the office's coordinator of veteran services, served as interim associate director in the summer.

Williams said in a statement that Pridemore was ready to lead the office with her experience as a veteran, a military spouse and graduate education at GW.

“She brings superb leadership qualities and experience to this position," he said.

Emanuel Johnson, president of GW Veterans, did not respond to immediate requests for comment.

The announcement comes after GW was named a “Military Friendly School” for the sixth-straight year by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

More than 1,300 military affiliated students are currently enrolled at GW. In 2009, the University joined the Yellow Ribbon Program, in which the government matches financial aid dollars for veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

This August, student veterans from the Corcoran College of Art + Design experienced hiccups in receiving their GI Bill benefits, but they credited the Office of Military and Veteran Student Services for helping them with emergency loans.