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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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SDSU was the first university in the country to open a student veterans residence. Photo and slideshow photos by Sandy Huffaker Jr.

Serving Those Who Serve

SDSU offers critical programs and services for veterans and active-duty military.
By Greg Block

The door is wide open—literally—at the circular-fronted building on the southwest corner of Fraternity Row.

In the bright, clean lounge, the television broadcasts FOX News. One young man studies quietly while another wanders into the kitchen for a snack. As more students arrive, they spill outside into the shady courtyard, where a giant American flag drapes part of the wall. 

This is Veteran’s House at San Diego State University, the country’s first university residence hall for student veterans. With its perpetually open door and casual ambiance, the former fraternity house has become a popular meeting place for SDSU’s growing community of student veterans and future veterans.

"Our veterans know that the university is behind them and they know that people are really caring and appreciating their service."

Increasing numbers

Estimates indicate that the number of veterans in this country will rise to more than 23 million in 2011. Sixty percent of them are under the age of 65 and more than 2 million of them are in California. Many, who originally joined the military as a path to education, had that dream delayed or derailed by their service in foreign wars.

The California State University system, led by San Diego State, is ensuring that soldiers have the opportunity to realize their dreams by providing numerous programs for veterans and active-duty military. Troops to College was created by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to attract veterans to California's public universities and colleges by making campuses more veteran-friendly. The initiative's design showcases the full range of curriculums and services available to veterans.

"There's an influx of combat veterans coming out of the military, and we're giving them an opportunity to get educated," said Nathaniel Donnelly, SDSU’s assistant veterans coordinator. "It's going to provide a very large and educated workforce in the future."

A variety of programs

In 2008, SDSU opened its Veterans Center, where military students and their dependants can go for assistance with finances, learn about new programs and join the university's Student Veteran Organization.

From special admissions to new certificate programs, SDSU president Stephen L. Weber has encouraged everyone at the university to look for ways to express gratitude to the men and women of the armed forces who have sacrificed so much for the country.

"President Weber has been incredibly supportive of our efforts," said Joan Putnam, SDSU's veterans coordinator. "Anything we've wanted to do, really, he's gotten behind and helped us push things forward.”

More than 941 veterans are enrolled in SDSU programs ranging from criminal justice, electrical engineering and psychology to business administration, physical education/kinesiology and international studies and conflict resolution. Additionally, there are more than 152 active-duty military students and approximately 147 dependants of veterans receiving benefits at SDSU.

But while most Troops to College programs focus on undergraduate work, SDSU is also looking for ways to help those who have already earned their bachelor's degrees. SDSU, along with CSU San Marcos and Military Education Services, launched a first-of-its-kind online professional graduate program tailored for veterans and active-duty military interested in high-paying, high-demand jobs in science and technology.  

The professional science master's and certificate programs  draws on the technical expertise developed by these men and women through their jobs in the nation's technically advanced military service. The program is offered online, allowing flexibility for veterans and active-duty military stationed around the world.  

Additionally, SDSU’s College of Engineering is participating in a study, funded by the National Science Foundation, to identify courses offered through all branches of the military that significantly translate to those required by SDSU to earn a degree in engineering. The hope is that some of those courses could be forgiven, fast tracking those veterans through their college career and on to careers in engineering.

And, the school of Journalism and Media Studies has an intensive 10-month graduate program for mid-career military Public Affairs Officers. PAOs arrive at SDSU with extensive expertise in the technical aspects of public relations, including news writing, media relations and message distribution. In the SDSU program they learn strategic analytic skills that better help them plan, implement and measurea comprehensive public relations program.

Community support

Local community support has strengthened SDSU's ability to serve the military. For the second year in a row, the San Diego Military Advisory Council recognized SDSU and President Weber with its Annual Achievement Award for excellence in serving and supporting San Diego's local veterans. Recent gifts to support the Troops to College initiative include $100,000 from the Wal-Mart Foundation, $50,000 from Ambassador Charles Hostler and $60,000 from numerous friends and supporters of the nation's first on campus Veterans House.  

"This job, and what I do here, has been life changing," Putnam said. "Our veterans know that the university is behind them and they know that people are really caring and appreciating their service."

Homepage, story and slideshow photos by Sandy Huffaker Jr.


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SDSU Veterans
SDSU programs support veterans, active-duty military