Student veterans and advocates have made strides in the past three years to improve the university’s ability to accommodate student veterans as they transition from military service to life on a college campus.
Georgetown has three main initiatives that provide resources to student veterans on campus: the veterans office coordinator from the Georgetown University Veterans Office, the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association and the Georgetown Veterans Admission Project.
The Georgetown University Veterans Office introduced the full-time position of veterans office coordinator in February 2011 to accommodate the approximately 385 student veterans on campus. The position, currently filled by army veteran David Shearman (SFS ’11), provides current and prospective student veterans with a mentor who will advocate for their needs and serve as a liaison between them and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It really started as a result of the student veterans coming together and making this happen, and the university has responded very well to it,” Shearman said of the coordinator position.
Second, the Georgetown University Student Veterans Association — founded in 2008 by BarbaraMujica, a professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese who was inspired by her son’s service in the Marine Corps — serves as a way for student veterans to connect and advocate for their issues on campus.
After speaking with student veterans and realizing that they lacked any kind of institutional support,Mujica and Director of Special Programs Mary Dluhy organized a committee of university administrators to talk about veterans’ issues.
“From [University President John J.] DeGioia to all the deans, all the program heads, everyone agreed, ‘Yes, this is important. We do want to do this.’ But the issue of veterans wasn’t at the forefront at that point,” Mujica said.
Now, the committee, which includes Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson and members of the admissions committee, ROTC and the Academic Resource Center, meets monthly to discuss veteran-specific needs.
“I’ve been at Georgetown for over 30 years, and I’ve never done anything as rewarding as this,” Mujicasaid. “I can see the progress we’re making, and I really love working with these people.”
GUSVA President and former Marine Thomas Gibbons-Neff (COL ’15) said the veterans coordinator and a student association are crucial components of the support system for veterans at Georgetown.
“Georgetown has just a great support structure in place for veterans as far as having David Shearmanin the Veterans Office and a very prevalent veterans community as put on by GUSVA in a really good way to meet veterans and kind of get pushed outside your boundaries,” Gibbons-Neff said. “Everyone just kind of gets along.”
GUSVA Director of Communications Russell Galeti (SFS ’13) said the group builds camaraderie among veterans in both Georgetown and the District and fosters awareness among the broader student body.
“Regardless of their views on the wars … a lot of my classmates are very supportive of the troops and are very interested in our service and our stories,” Galeti said.
Other members of the Georgetown community have shown their support for veterans on campus as well. The athletic department will donate men’s basketball tickets to Georgetown veterans and their guests on Veteran’s Day.
GUSVA will also sponsor events throughout the week of Nov. 12, including a reception for veterans and their families organized by DeGioia, a flag-raising ceremony and a speech by retired Maj. Gen. Andrew Davis of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Gibbons-Neff said the president’s reception is an exciting event for both the veterans and the president’s office.
“It’s the first year that we’re doing it, and coming from the highest office of the university reaching down, it’s great,” he said.
In the future, GUSVA aims to expand its outreach to attract more veterans to campus.
“Georgetown is a really great place for military and veteran students to apply to attend if they can,” Shearman said.
Galeti agreed, citing opportunities available to veterans on Capitol Hill; he currently serves as a legislative fellow for Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (D – Ohio) and has been working on issues involving foreign affairs, national security, intelligence and veterans legislation.
The final component of Georgetown veterans’ administrative support system, the Georgetown Veterans Admissions Project was founded spring 2012 by former president of GUSVA Colby Howard (SFS ’12). GVAP aims to attract more undergraduate veterans to Georgetown.
“If you look at the veteran population here at Georgetown, across the university spectrum, we’re extremely graduate heavy,” Howard said.
Future projects include the formation of a resource center for veterans that will be staffed by administrators who understand veteran needs.
“The goal with that is to increase the number of full-time professional staff so that … you can get a little bit more specialization,” Shearman said. “You’d also have a director for the center who can think strategically about … the long-term and the big picture.”
Mujica said regularly working closely with veterans on campus has inspired her.
“What has impressed me so much about the vets is that these are men and women who went into the service to serve, and now they’re out of the service and they’re still serving,” she said.