Rutgers–Camden Named Military Friendly School

2014-08-27 03.48.33-feature

New student veterans at this year’s veteran orientation program

For the fifth consecutive year, Rutgers University–Camden has been named a Military Friendly School by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs magazine. The honor recognizes the university as one of the elite post-secondary schools for student veterans in the nation.

Rutgers–Camden will be listed in the forthcoming 2015 Guide to Military Friendly Schools and profiled on the publisher’s new Schools Matchmaker site.

The recognition is a credit to Rutgers–Camden’s Office of Veterans Affairs and its coordinated efforts with departments throughout the campus, says Fred Davis, director of the office.

“Since we formed this office six years ago, we have had outstanding involvement from staff members across an array of divisions,” says Davis. “Together, we have excelled at providing superior services to our student veteran population.”

As Davis explains, when veterans come out of the military, they often lack the sufficient preparation or knowledge needed to begin the college application process. From the first phone call or office visit, he becomes their point of contact, helping them to navigate the process and ensure that they are in compliance with V.A. requirements.

“While we’ve always had people on campus who are dedicated to helping veterans, Fred is that person who can point them in the right direction,” says Tom DiValerio, dean of students at Rutgers–Camden. “His office has really centralized these services for student veterans.”

Fred Davis (left) and Joshua Piccoli

Fred Davis (left) and Joshua Piccoli

With Davis’ guidance, Rutgers–Camden has taken several successful measures to help student veterans make a smooth transition from the military to academic life. Every fall, during traditional Welcome Week festivities, the campus hosts a breakout orientation program tailored for new student veterans.

“Many colleges don’t do it, but we found that veterans really appreciate it,” says Davis.

Rutgers–Camden also maintains a simple and effective veterans website, which serves as a repository for vital resources and information. While some university sites “try to be too flashy,” notes Davis, veterans prefer a site that is easy to access and use.

The campus also utilizes the Veteran Cert portal system, enabling student veterans in any location to upload documents, which are accessible to all appropriate personnel. If veterans need help scanning and/or uploading the documents, Davis’ office is available to assist them.

“We don’t want to overburden students by making them spend their time and gas money to visit the campus,” says Davis. “They can take care of it from home.”

To further accommodate veterans, in November 2009, Rutgers–Camden opened the student veterans lounge, located on the ground floor of the Campus Center. The space has become a popular gathering spot for student veterans to study, talk, and share a sense of camaraderie.

“Anyone who’s served in the military has that special bond,” says Tina Mikes, a 2013 graduate of Rutgers–Camden, who now works as a supervisor for Soldier On, a private, nonprofit organization that aims to prevent veteran homelessness. “Before we even know each other, we know that we have something in common.”

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Jeremy Kane Scholarship recipients at this year’s Jeremy Kane 5K Memorial Run

Rutgers–Camden’s Veterans Affairs office has also been a major proponent of the student veterans group at Rutgers–Camden and its goal of encouraging student veteran participation in various clubs and activities on campus. In addition, the office runs a series of field trips, focusing on American and/or military history, which are open to all students. Past trips include visits to the Art of the American Soldier exhibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and the World Trade Center site in New York. The office will host a trip to the newly opened 9/11 Memorial Museum later this semester.

“There are many opportunities for student veterans to get involved in campus activities,” says DiValerio.

Rutgers–Camden has also hosted a series of initiatives and programs that address needs and interests specific to student veterans. Twice a semester, the offices of Veterans Affairs and Career Services partner to host free veterans career fairs, attended by a host of companies looking to hire more veterans. Veterans Affairs also teams with the Office of Health Services to offer information fairs on health-related issues. In April, more than 100 guests attended an event focusing on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its impact on college student performance. An upcoming session, highlighting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), will be held at noon Tuesday, Oct. 14 in the Campus Center.

Among the other measures, the campus’ Veterans Affairs office has established a Veterans Emergency Fund, which enables student veterans in dire circumstances to take a temporary loan and repay it on a monthly basis using their V.A. benefits.

Student veterans are also eligible to earn the Jeremy Kane Scholarship, funded through the annual Jeremy Kane 5K Memorial Run in Cherry Hill. The award is named in honor of Kane, who was a 22-year-old lance corporal in the United States Marine Corps and a criminal justice major at Rutgers–Camden when he was killed by a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan in January 2010.

“Rutgers–Camden offers student veterans something more than any other university does,” says Joshua Piccoli, a United States Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War, who assists students in Rutgers–Camden’s Office of Veterans Affairs. “It is really unmatched by any other institution.”

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