A Question For Martin Dinan

How can higher education institutions support student veterans?

By AGB    //    Volume 27,  Number 4   //    July/August 2019

More than a decade after passage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, how well are colleges and universities serving student veterans? Trusteeship asked retired army colonel and combat veteran Martin Dinan, the director of veteran recruitment and enrollment at the College of Saint Rose, to discuss the special needs of these students and the role of boards in ensuring that their institutions provide adequate support.

What have student veterans contributed to the educational environment at your institution?

Student veterans, for the most part, bring a strong work ethic and maturity to the classroom. Additionally, they are committed to the goals they have set for themselves. Thanks to their military experiences they are committed to mission success, and they view earning their degrees as a mission. They also enrich their fellow students’ experiences by sharing their stories. At Saint Rose we’ve seen student veterans contribute by becoming involved in other areas of campus life—for example, student affairs, volunteerism, and community events.

What are the key resources boards can provide to help their institutions achieve a high level of support for student veterans?

The key resources for boards to pursue to support their student veteran community are vast. First, I recommend they set aside space for their student veterans. This provides student veterans and students who are military family members a community and a place to be themselves. The president of our college, Carolyn J. Stefanco, recognized this as soon as she arrived at Saint Rose, and we have had generous donor support, including from the Massry Family, two members of whom serve on our board of trustees. Last fall, just a few years after we dedicated the Veteran Center at Saint Rose, we opened our first residence hall exclusively for student veterans.

Additionally, boards should support the employment of a single point of contact on their campus for all things “veteran.” Numerous surveys reveal that veterans grow frustrated when support for them on campus is lacking. Preferably, this single point of contact would be a veteran or military family member who is passionate about servicing this unique population and understands the needs of this group. In Spring 2018 at Saint Rose, we invested in a second staff member to assist with veteran enrollment at Saint Rose, and like me, he is an army veteran.

Boards can also assist by engaging systems or organizations that can partner with their institutions in support of their student veterans and family members. At Saint Rose we have strong relationships with our local VA hospital, our Center for Economic Growth, and the area VFW leadership, among others?

What did the development of a robust veterans education strategy accomplish at the College of Saint Rose?

The academic success of student veterans enriches the overall academic experience of the institution. When I look at the dean’s list each semester, many of my student veterans are listed among the names. A few of those students never saw themselves as college material before, but at Saint Rose we are committed to recognizing the skills, abilities, and potential that is demonstrated through military experience, not just a high school transcript. We recognize that the military often changes and brings out the best in men and women who serve, and those demonstrated abilities are a predictor of their college success.

Lastly, the student veterans program at Saint Rose has assisted student veterans in transition and reintegration into a community that desires and counts on their presence as productive citizens. President Stefanco often talks about how important it is that our institution reflects the face of America. Our service members, veterans, and family members of veterans who come to us as students are a key part of this diversity, and it enriches the educational experiences of all of our students.

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