The SUNY New Paltz Office of Veteran & Military Services has coordinated a new Veteran, Military and Dependent Mentoring Program (VMDM), a networking initiative with an emphasis on helping student veterans and their family members transition into campus life as seamlessly as possible, while providing the tools they need to achieve academic excellence.
At a kick-off barbeque event held at the New Paltz VFW on Aug. 27, student, faculty and staff mentors got to meet their veteran, military and dependent protégés and begin planting the seeds for a successful fall semester.
“I want to thank the College for supporting this initiative and the New Paltz VFW for allowing us to use their space for the kick-off,” said Jason Gilliland, coordinator of the Office of Veteran & Military Services. “This initiative was cultivated by one of our very own students, Nathan Parker, and we’ve really pushed hard to be able to roll it out for the first week of classes. The goal of the program is to link up veterans, service members and dependents with faculty members, for academic success; staff, for professional success; and students, for peer-to-peer mentoring to ease the social transition.”
The VMDM Program is designed to bring mentors and protégés together at least three times per semester, but otherwise gives them the freedom to use their time together in the most productive manner possible, whether that means helping to monitor academic progress and provide referrals to student support services, or helping develop new professional skills that can be applied as they seek employment.
There are currently 13 faculty members, 11 staff and 12 current students who have signed on to work with the 19 protégés who have enrolled in the program. Participants on both sides of the mentoring relationship will be asked to renew their enrollments at the start of each semester.
As a former New Paltz student and current staff member, KC Edenhofer, Residence Life complex director at College and Shango Halls, said he decided to volunteer his time to the VMDM because he has known many servicemen and –women through family and friends, and understands some of the challenges they face when their terms of service expire.
“A lot of my family members are in the service, so anything I can do to help out with our veteran students means a lot to me,” Edenhofer said. “Many of the students coming to New Paltz after serving are transitioning from a very rigid system to a much more fluid college life. Some adapt very well, while others struggle. I’m glad to give my time to advise them as they acclimate to civilian life, to campus life and to their new academic opportunities and responsibilities.”