Florida International University has been recognized for its efforts to support military-affiliated students and those who are veterans.
It was recently recognized as a 2020 Top School for Veterans by U.S. Veterans Magazine, which came on the heels of ranking as a 2020-2021 Military College of Distinction last month. U.S. Veterans Magazine works to inform veterans and their families of opportunities and information that can help ease the transition from military to civilian life.
“These recognitions reflect the efforts to improve processes, procedures, and tailored services for our veteran and military-affiliated students,” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Anthony DeSantis. “We’re making sure this population of students’ needs are being met.”
FIU works to achieve a “holistic approach” to supporting veterans, DeSantis explained. The FIU Office of Veteran & Military Affairs (VMA) offers services to veterans and military-affiliated students that includes sorting through Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits, career support, connecting students with disability services and counseling resources, and scholarships for veterans. There are over 1,600 veteran and military-affiliated (active duty, reservists, dependents, and national guardsmen) students at FIU, and 125 faculty and staff veterans employed at the university.
The VMA office, according to student-veteran Matthew DeBord, also serves as a place to connect with others from similar backgrounds. DeBord, a junior dual degree student studying accounting and religious studies, spent 12 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He works in the VMA office, which he describes as a safe haven for students adjusting from life in the military to life at a university.
“It’s the camaraderie,” DeBord said. “It helped with the transition from military to higher education a lot. My first semester was really rough. It felt good to know that we are going through the same sort of process with other people - to know that, that you’re not the only veteran scholar transitioning into higher education.”
DeBord is involved with many aspects of veteran life on campus, and has worked diligently as a voice of change within the VMA office to improve student life for veterans. He was the president of the Student Veterans of America chapter at FIU, worked with the Student Government Association to tend to student veterans’ needs, pushed for more scholarships, and organized and participated in community-building events with other veterans.
“The directors and staff in the VMA office have been great advocates for students like me,” DeBord said. “I am proud of this recognition, and I’m looking forward to the work to come.”