Office to open offering increased support to student veterans

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COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

Beginning Sept. 1the College of William and Mary will be operating the Office of Student Veteran Engagement in the Sadler Center. The office will serve as a central location for studentveteran support and aims to fulfill gaps of assistance that were previously unmet by the College.  

Before the establishment of the office, undergraduate veterans at the College found support through Veterans Benefits Officer Carolyn Ward, who helped these students navigate their GI Bill benefits. 

According to Phillip Sheldon ’20, President of the Student Veterans of William and Mary, student veterans saw a need for additional resources for veterans on campus. These deficiencies were especially apparent during the veterans orientation when the support services available to these students were highlighted  

“[Carolyn Ward] does an incredibly important role,” Sheldon said. “She knows an exhaustive amount about the GI bill and using your benefits, but the school still needed someone that was going to be specifically for helping with applications, resumes, working with organizations on the federal, state and local level, private or public sector, identifying like a job or internship pipeline, or opportunities, and then increasing the amount of veterans that are on campus.  

Former College President Taylor Reveley established a Veterans and Military Affairs Working Group in 2015 to learn how the College could better meet the needs of student veterans and students deployed on active duty. According to Dr. James Golden, senior consultant for special projects in the Office of the President and member of the Working Group, every year the Group has requested the creation of a full-time position to organize assistance for student veterans. This advocacy ultimately culminated in the creation of the Office of Student Veteran Engagement, and for the last yearGolden said that Corey York ’19, former president of the Student Veterans spearheaded a strong case for the office’s establishment. 

“It is my hope that this office will redress all the serendipity in the process and help maximize a veteran’s learning and professional earning potential, while simultaneously reducing the civil-military divide and enhancing student visibility and on-campus relations,” York said. 

“It is my hope that this office will redress all the serendipity in the process and help maximize a veteran’s learning and professional earning potential, while simultaneously reducing the civil-military divide and enhancing student visibility and on-campus relations,” York said. 

According to Golden, College President Katherine Rowe and Vice Presidents Ginger Ambler and Henry Broaddus supported the Office. In January, Rowe asked University Advancement to create the Office of Student Veteran Engagement. She then created a committee, ensuring the creation of the Office, and found the requisite financial support from donors. Luiza Newlin-Lukowicz, senior director of corporate and foundation relations at the College, found a grant from the Jessie duPont foundation to fund the office’s initial operations. 

“William & Mary has a long tradition of honoring and educating soldiers and veterans,” Rowe said in a written statement.

“William & Mary has a long tradition of honoring and educating soldiers and veterans,” Rowe said in a written statement. “Our university is home to top ‘military friendly’ graduate programs and we are located amidst one of the largest military populations in the nation. The new Center for Student Veteran Engagement gathers together our existing programs for military-affiliated students across the whole institution. Better coordination among these programs will expand their impact, ensuring strong support for veterans as they transition to student life. We are very grateful to the Jessie Ball duPont Fund’s support for W&M to pilot this initiative this year and to the Office of Student Affairs for making this a long-term priority.

The office will offer a broad range of external and internal support for student veterans to help them both during their time on campus and after their graduationIn a partnership with the Cohen Career Center, the office will provide assistance in finding internships and job opportunities, including providing veterans with a pipeline into public service. Other specific services include resume building, connecting students with external counseling services that are in network with the Department of Veterans Affairs and helping to build a campus environment that is beneficial to ROTC enrollment. The office will also work to increase veteran and active-duty military enrollment, especially in the undergraduate programs.  

According to the faculty advisor for the Student Veterans of William and Mary, professor Lawrence Wilkerson, the center will attract more military veterans, male and female alike, to the college as both transfers and freshmen  

Within the past week, Charlie Foster ’17 was hired as the full-time director of the office. Foster recently served as the veteran liaison for the Troops to Teachers Virginia Center, while also serving as the co-chair of the Veterans Affairs Working Group. Foster enlisted in the Marine Corps after Sept. 11, 2001, to serve as a combat correspondent. In 2017, Foster earned a Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from the College while specializing in studentveterans’ transition from the military into higher education.   

Foster will also coordinate an Advisory Council to help develop ideas for helping student veterans at the College. This body will be responsible for outreach to military organizations, alumni and partners in the public and private sectors to identify support for active-duty and veteran students. Working with other college resources, Foster will work to obtain supplementary grants, contract funding and external funding for veterans and the office. According to Sheldon, once the office obtains $3 million in funding, it will be considered a permanent part of the College’s endowment.  

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues across campus to see that student veterans thrive and our Tribe flourishes as a result,” Foster said.

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues across campus to see that student veterans thrive and our Tribe flourishes as a result,” Foster said. I already feel welcomed by members of the faculty and staff, so I am very pleased to be able to take on this role during such an exciting time for the College.”