Student veterans receive advice, support

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hosted Stu­dent Vet­eran Appre­ci­a­tion Day on Sat­urday, a day­long sym­po­sium fea­turing a series of dis­cus­sions, work­shops, and net­working oppor­tu­ni­ties for the young ser­vice men and women.

Stu­dents, state offi­cials, and vet­erans’ ser­vices rep­re­sen­ta­tives attended the event, which was held in the Curry Stu­dent Center and orga­nized by Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion. The event took place only a few days before the Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board is expected to release a report rec­om­mending how Mass­a­chu­setts can con­tinue sup­porting vet­erans’ edu­ca­tion. The seven-​​member board was estab­lished last year and com­mis­sioned by the Governor’s Advi­sory Council on Vet­erans Ser­vices and the state Depart­ment of Vet­erans’ Ser­vices to explore the expe­ri­ences of stu­dent vet­erans in Mass­a­chu­setts through lis­tening tours and focus groups.

Erik DeGiorgi, chair of the Mass­a­chu­setts Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board, speaks during Stu­dent Vet­erans Appre­ci­a­tion Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

At the symposium’s opening cer­e­mony, Erik DeGiorgi described the dif­fi­culty of adjusting to civilian life after combat duty in Afghanistan. DeGiorgi, a Marine Corps vet­eran and the advi­sory board’s chairman, noted that col­lege has inspired him to suc­ceed, saying, “It wasn’t until I stepped into a class­room that I dis­cov­ered who I was and what I was capable of.”

DeGiorgi urged stu­dent vet­erans to take advan­tage of their edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties though finan­cial ben­e­fits such as the Post-​​9/​11 GI Bill. “It’s our respon­si­bility to use this gift from our society to become the next gen­er­a­tion of leaders within it,” he said.

The opening cer­e­mony also fea­tured remarks from Coleman Nee, sec­re­tary of the Mass­a­chu­setts Depart­ment of Vet­erans’ Ser­vices; John W. Polanowicz, sec­re­tary of the Mass­a­chu­setts Exec­u­tive Office of Health and Human Ser­vices; Col. Francis Magurn, chief of the joint staff, Mass­a­chu­setts Army National Guard; and Michael Trudeau, a recent North­eastern grad­uate and the pres­i­dent of the SVO. Trudeau also serves as a Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board member.

Michael Trudeau, pres­i­dent of the Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion, speaks during Stu­dent Vet­erans Appre­ci­a­tion Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

State offi­cials hailed the efforts of the board, which they said exem­pli­fies Mass­a­chu­setts’ national lead­er­ship in pro­viding sup­port and resources to stu­dent veterans.

Work­shops and breakout ses­sions held throughout the day focused on a range of topics, from building a stu­dent vet­erans orga­ni­za­tion to under­standing state and fed­eral ben­e­fits for stu­dent vet­erans. An exhi­bi­tion hall also paired prospec­tive and cur­rent stu­dent vet­erans with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from public and pri­vate ser­vice providers and col­leges and universities.

In Jan­uary, the Stu­dent Vet­erans of America rec­og­nized Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion as its top chapter in the United States. The SVO offers career ser­vices, advo­cacy, and other pro­gram­ming to stu­dent vet­erans, many of whom par­tic­i­pated in a nine-​​kilometer fundraising run ear­lier this month in sup­port of the Red Sox Foun­da­tion and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital Home Base Program.

North­eastern, for its part, has devel­oped a strong com­mit­ment to edu­cating stu­dent vet­erans through the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, which cur­rently pro­vides free tuition to more than 130 vet­erans who have served in the post-​​9/​11 era. In 2009, the uni­ver­sity pledged $2 mil­lion to help vet­erans earn a col­lege edu­ca­tion through the pro­gram, which offers stu­dents access to bachelor’s, master’s, doc­toral, and law degrees.