DePaul University has committed to look for new ways to
support the more than 30,000 student veterans enrolled in Illinois higher
education institutions by signing a pledge alongside other Illinois schools.
The “Valuing Veterans: How Our Campuses Can Better Serve
Those Who Have Served” event brought together university leaders, including
DePaul president Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, and military and civic leaders
to declare their commitment to meeting the needs of student veterans on college
campuses. By signing the pledge, DePaul has committed to enhancing student
veteran outreach and recognition, providing transition services, and
establishing support policies and procedures.
Sponsored by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Council
for Adult and Experiential Learning, the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs
and Student Veterans of America, the event held at the University Club of
Chicago on Sept. 27 featured a keynote address by Col. David Sutherland, U.S.
Army (Ret.), former special assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff for warrior and family support, and a panel discussion about campus
support systems and ways to improve services to student veterans.
The panel featured Dennis Trejo, a senior accounting major
and DePaul student veteran, who also serves as a veteran liaison and president
of DePaul’s Student Veterans Union to connect fellow veterans with benefits,
resources and provide support in transitioning to academic life. As a returning
student, Trejo has firsthand knowledge of the challenges veterans face as they
transition back to civilian life.
“To see our president sign the pledge, it was a great
feeling because only great things can come of this,” Trejo said. “This pledge
shows a material commitment that DePaul University is going to make and that
the challenges veterans face are being addressed. After overcoming those
challenges and seeing how daunting the transition process can be to return to
school after deployment, I vowed to help those who need it, especially right
now when we see an influx of veterans transitioning from active duty to
academic life. I can relate to them. I know what they are going through and how
tough it can be. I want to let them know that there is someone here to help.”
DePaul’s Office of Veterans Affairs was formally established
in 2009 as a result of an increase in post-9/11student veterans returning to
campus. This quarter, the office has identified 325 student veterans at DePaul.
Haydee Nuñez, director of adult veteran and commuter student
affairs, explains the importance of the veteran student population to the
university community. “Veteran and military students have been a priority of DePaul
University since World War II. Since 2009, we’ve seen about 300 students per
year come through the office looking for camaraderie, assistance with benefits
and support services. We also try to increase awareness across the university
about student veterans on campus.”
“Nationally, veterans have a higher unemployment rate than
nonveterans, but with a higher education degree they do much better. For a few
years now we have been focusing on transitioning veteran students onto campus.
Now as these post-9/11 student veterans cycle through, we are focusing on
transitioning them into the workforce through partnerships with alumni relations
and the career center.”
For more information on veterans’ services or to contact a
student veteran liaison at DePaul, visit http://studentaffairs.depaul.edu/va/veteranscorner.html.