Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:47

A Voice for Veterans: Empire State College

By Jackie Kingsland | News

SARATOGA SPRINGS - As one of the area’s most military and veteran friendly educational institutions, SUNY Empire State College, located along Union Avenue in Saratoga Springs, offers some of the most valuable education opportunities for our returning men and women. 

 

The college’s commitment to our veterans resonates from speaking to the support and professional staff including the on-site VA Counselor, the secretary and even the Director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education (OVME). 

Their mission focuses on non-traditional methods for educating students while also organizing credit for military training, providing fee waivers for servicemembers, offering flexible degree options including individual programs or independent studies at any of the colleges’ 34 locations across the state, with a variety of ways to access the program’s curriculum. Through the Center for Distance Learning, over 500 online courses are offered to working adults, veterans and their families in several study areas.

Empire State College is a Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), which holds substantially more significance for military/veteran students. The college recognizes the value of military training and experience and wants to help integrate that experience toward the students’ educational goals. Wondering the importance for a SOC affiliation? SOC is an alliance of higher education facilities and participating institutions partnering with the Department of Defense and the different service branches of the military to help servicemembers and their families enroll in college-level programs. 

An SOC higher education community understands and responds to flexibility requirements, access, and availability to our military through certain principles and criteria. Many of these colleges have a presence on military installations, which Empire State College does, as well as providing educational opportunities to servicemembers overseas. (If a student will deploy, they should notify their faculty mentor and instructors with the deployment dates and they will be advised about completing courses, and/or withdrawing without penalty while deployed.) As part of the SOC Degree Network Systems, colleges agree to guarantee transferability for appropriate courses, which aids students considerably in transferring college credits. For more detailed information regarding Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, call 1-800-368-5622 or visit www.soc.aascu.org, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Speaking from experience, it is very evident when contacting the OVME that their dedication to veterans isn’t just academics, but also a genuine willingness to serve the needs of those serving our country. The OVME not only provides information to veteran/military students, they also offer a web-based module for students, staff, and the general public relating to Post-traumatic Stress (PTS), Acute Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) to understand and assist with these issues. An on-site counselor in Saratoga, Paul Stote with New York State Division of Veteran’s Affairs (NYSDVA), is a valuable advocate for veteran students, assisting with benefit-related questions. You can reach the VA by calling (888) 838-7697 or visit them online at www.gibill.va.gov. 

Upon speaking with Linda Frank, Director of the OVME, it was very clear the support for veterans/military students. 

Frank observes an immediate connection and trust level between military OVME personnel and students, “There is a comfort level…they speak the same language and understand each other. “

Frank says learning more about the individuals seeking her help has even assisted her in her personal life as well. 

“Getting to know the veterans and finding out how I can help,” she continues, “I find service members are dedicated, goal-oriented and independent. If they are assigned a task, it will be done well. It is a privilege being around veterans; they inspire me to become a better person.” 

Frank communicates passionately about the OVME’s devotion to assist with the transition to college life, “In collaboration with the college’s central offices and the regional centers, OVME assists veteran and military students from pre-application through graduation. As an adult-learning institution, we understand that our service members, veterans and their families might be dealing with challenges outside of the education environment. It’s important to be sensitive to their needs and provide the support and resources necessary for them to successfully complete their education.” 

When asking a student at the college, Wayne Britton (who is also an Iraq War Veteran), what the most helpful college resource was for him, his response was the Military Transition course offered to help servicemembers reintegrate from military to civilian life. 

Reach out to OVME’s website to review facts, meet their front-line staff and view servicemember links. From experience interacting with the OVME staff, conversations will be friendly and their willingness to help is genuine. They provide answers to questions both diligently and efficiently.

An inspiring creation for veteran scholars at the college is the development of the Student Veterans & Military Club last year. The club consists of a steering committee, (which includes three students: Ed Herbert, Wayne Britton, and Paul Maxwell) college staff and their online population. It’s essentially open to everyone. The club focuses on servicemembers to support connections, raise awareness, and network with other students. 

“Technically, it was the first club the college established”, said Britton. “The club is designed for student access to resources and to obtain more knowledge throughout their college experience.” 

In addition, they have events at The Great Escape and Darian Lake. How does one become a member? It’s easy, express an interest, and you will be provided club space. Contact Susan Bruce at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

Empire State College has degree programs and veteran-friendly support, beginning in the Fall 2013, Credit Where Credit is Due; Veteran and Service Member Pathway to MBA, will be implemented to ease veterans into civilian business leadership. Call (800) 847-3000, ext. 2791 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

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A Notable Mention: On February 5, 2013, at the City Council meeting, a resolution introduced by Commissioner Michele Madigan was passed for city employees who are also members of the U.S. Armed Forces, offering compensation, continuation of benefits and insurance to those service members. 

Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, who works diligently within the community for veterans services said, “I congratulate Commissioner Madigan on a job well done. We want to be known as a city that’s veteran-friendly. More importantly, when it comes to employment; no one should have to make choices with their job while serving our country.”

As always, thank you to our veterans, and stay tuned for A Voice for Veterans next month.

 

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