The first meeting of the newly formed Veterans Committee of the Hudson Valley Consortium for Higher Education took place from 12-3 p.m. Friday at the College Terrace on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
The committee, which is meant to bring together veterans’ services representatives from Hudson Valley colleges to share best practices and resources, encompasses nearly every university in the region. Veterans’ service representatives from SUNY New Paltz, Marist College, the Culinary Institute of America, Mount Saint Mary College, Empire State College, several community colleges, and others, all gathered for their first meeting to establish the goals of the committee and begin brainstorming ideas for shared resources.
Representatives from U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer’s offices and U.S. Representatives Chris Gibson and Sean Patrick Maloney’s offices were also present at the meeting to offer their support of the Consortium as well as their assistance with any veteran-related services, such as case work and securing federal grant funding.
SUNY New Paltz Coordinator of Veteran Services Jason Gilliland gave the group an overview of the Consortium’s mission and vision, which includes sharing best practices; bringing in guest speakers; creating a comprehensive database of local resources for veteran job placement, housing, food pantries, etc.; creating positions within the committee responsible for maintaining said databases and keeping minutes; and getting veterans involved in community service and events.
“On top of adult student needs is the baggage of being a vet,” said Gilliland. “There are a lot of variables for this population. We all know off-campus situations are just as important to veterans’ success in college.”
Each member of the group took a chance to explain the various initiatives their colleges have undertaken to serve the veteran student population, thereby inspiring other members to adopt similar plans in their institutions. Examples include the creation of a “battle buddy room” on campus, specifically dedicated to veterans, military service members, and dependents; training veterans’ service coordinators in suicide prevention; scheduling veterans’ classes around doctors’ appointments with the VA; having veteran-specific open house events and orientations; working with the traditionally “ignored” female veteran population; and making the veterans’ office a “one stop” for all veteran student inquiries from financial aid to scheduling.
SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian said he was “heartened to see such a good turnout” for the Consortium’s first meeting, which will subsequently be held on a different college campus each month.
“This group of students has significant life experiences the typical 18-year-old or 20-year-old transfer student coming to our campuses does not have,” said Christian. “I know from my own experience the way that veteran students can enrich campus discussions. They very often bring a different work ethic into the classroom. That’s a rich part of our campus environment that we profoundly value.”