Supporting Student Veterans

GW President Steven Knapp addresses student veterans at the Student Veterans of America Conference Oct. 3.

October 4, 2010

In a speech at the Student Veterans of America (SVA) third annual National Conference Oct. 3, GW President Steven Knapp told the audience he believes universities have a duty to help acclimate student veterans to a university community.

“You’ve risked all for the common good, and America’s colleges and universities, in my opinion, have a responsibility to respond in a very forthright and active way, to reach out to help you become integrated into college and university life, which is a very different world from what you’ve experienced during your time in service,” said Dr. Knapp.

Dr. Knapp spoke about the value of student veterans to representatives from approximately 79 student veterans chapters from around the country at Georgetown University, which hosted the four-day conference on “Success After Service.”

GW Presidential Administrative Fellow Brian Hawthorne, a member of the SVA board of directors, introduced Dr. Knapp at the conference and detailed Dr. Knapp and GW’s support of student veterans, saying the university was “engaged and willing to listen” since his arrival on campus in 2008. GW’s chapter of Student Veterans of America, which was represented at the event, was founded in 2008 and is dedicated to providing a community for veterans and their supporters.

Dr. Knapp said a robust presence of student veterans on campus is needed to enrich the lives of fellow students and help veterans themselves as they move forward in their careers.

“You have a proven capacity to lead and inspire others, and you’ve acquired and tested that capacity often in situations of extreme complexity and often in cases of dire emergency,” he said. “Your experience enriches the classroom and campus environments and enriches the education of your fellow students because you bring a unique perspective to them. Your commitment to service, which you’ve also demonstrated in such an extraordinary way, is an inspiration to students, and I think strengthens their own commitment to service.”

“We have to draw on all the skills and talents that we have in this country, and the leadership skills and the teamwork, discipline and rigor that you developed during our time in the service makes you, I think, ideal contributors to the strengthening of the American economy and society,” he added.

This year, more than 500 student veterans are enrolled at GW, including more than 260 who are taking advantage of the Yellow Ribbon Program, part of the GI Bill passed after 9/11, which provides returning veterans with enhanced access to private colleges and universities.

One of the leading participants in the program, GW has budgeted up to $2.8 million for the program in 2010-11, which will be matched by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans who qualify for GW’s Yellow Ribbon Program receive about a 71 percent discount on full-time graduate tuition and a free undergraduate education.

Dr. Knapp encouraged attendees to establish dialogue with fellow student veterans on their campuses and educate university administrators about the challenges of student veterans, which includes acclimating into university life.

Dr. Knapp also detailed GW’s long commitment to serving veterans. The university, he said, is named after the nation’s most famous veteran, and it enrolled the first recipient of the 1944 GI Bill, Don A. Balfour. Notable veteran alumni include Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth, M.A. ’92; retired General Colin Powell, M.B.A. ’71; and retired Admiral Thad Allen, M.P.A. ‘86. The university’s Office of Veteran Services offers several service and program initiatives to assist student veterans in their transition to the higher education environment.

The university also was recently was named a top “military friendly” school by GI Jobs magazine, and GW ranked 21 out of 100 colleges in “Military Times” Best for Vets college rankings.

“Clearly, Student Veterans of America is a movement that’s building and growing and having a real impact for the good across the country,” said Dr. Knapp. “We’re very proud of our veterans and the role they’re playing on our campus and beyond.”