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Supporting veterans at Rochester

November 10, 2015
color guard at Veteran Memorial Grove.NROTC students helped re-dedicate the Veterans Memorial Grove during Meliora Weekend 2015. The grove honors University alumni killed in wartime since the First World War.

Veterans Day Events


For veterans, higher education can be an important part of their transition back to civilian life. But many veteran students and their families face unique challenges when navigating both the educational and governmental systems.

“They have different needs than traditional students,” reflects Nathan Kadar, director of academic services at the Simon Business School. That was something he learned upon meeting Matthew Legere, who was enrolled in Simon’s part-time MBA program.

Legere took it upon himself to present on what it’s like being a veteran student. “One of his first slides was an image from the movie Billy Madison, with actor Adam Sandler sitting at a desk that’s too small for him,” recalls Kadar. “That image of not quite fitting in made perfect sense.”

So a group of individuals representing divisions, schools, and interests at the University convened to discuss “what we can do to better support our veterans, ROTC members, active service members, and their families,” explains Kadar.

color guard on football field

The Veterans Alliance sponsored a military appreciation football game at Fauver Stadium in October. The University’s NROTC color guard kicked off the game.

In 2013, the University created the Veterans Alliance, an affinity group that helps active military and veteran students, staff, faculty, alumni, and their families succeed in higher education. Affinity groups such as the alliance are voluntary associations of people at the University who have common interests with regard to supporting and managing diversity and inclusion on campus. As such, the Veterans Alliance is open to all.

In addition to providing a support network, the alliance hosts social events for the veteran community and its supporters. These include military appreciation football games, panel discussions, and the annual Veterans Day Run to the Greater Rochester Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park.

“Either because of interest or personal background, we have a very dedicated team spanning the University,” says Kadar. With this network in place, the Veterans Alliance can refer veteran students to the appropriate services or contacts on campus, from admissions and financial aid to counseling and mentoring.

The University has worked to expand and centralize the services and support it offers to veteran students and their families. In 2014 Rochester opened its Veteran and Military Family Services Office.

lecture class with NROTC cadets asking questions to a panel

The Veterans Alliance hosts panel discussions on topics of interest to the veteran community. This year’s Meliora Weekend event featured a panel of University NROTC alumni discussing leadership.

“Our campus veteran community—numbering around 100—includes veterans, their dependents, and their spouses,” says Pat Toporzycki, the office’s director. “They’re enrolled as undergraduates as well as students in the Simon Business School, School of Nursing, Warner School of Education, and more. And the number is growing each year.”

Toporzycki applauds the University’s efforts thus far to support veteran students while recognizing that her office is a starting point. “We’re trying to be more proactive and anticipate what our veteran students might need. For example, we worked with the College Center for Advising Services to pre-register our veteran students in order to certify their benefits earlier. That’s just one way we can help close the gap when it comes to accommodating our veterans.”

“Switching from a structured, task-filled life in the military to one of relative freedom at university can be a challenge for veterans,” says Kadar. “Ultimately they just want to be regular students—and we want to help them succeed during and after their time at Rochester.”

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