By James Barraford
Shawn Aldrich was elected the new coordinator of Veterans & Military Services Aug. 9.
Following the resignation of Leanna Lynch March 26, a search began to fill the position.
Lynch went on to become community relations specialist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Aldrich, an Air Force veteran and a Framingham State graduate, worked in the Accounting Department at FSU prior to being hired for this position.
When the office was without a coordinator, Lynch came on as a part-time contractor to continue to guide student veterans, assisted by Tamika Young, an Air Force veteran.
Aldrich is enrolled in the Masters of Business Administration program and Young is enrolled in the Master of Arts Counseling Psychology Program.
Young said her experience as a student veteran gave her insight into the challenges this demographic faces.
“I personally know what it feels like to start your academic journey after completing a career in the military,” Young said.
Aldrich said being on campus for years, and being a student veteran himself, he knows the challenges of transitioning into civilian life as well as all the technical aspects of the GI Bill.
The post-9/11 GI Bill is a government program for those who served in the military, which o/ers
benefits, including coverage of some or all the costs of tuition and fees as well as funding for housing, books, and supplies.
The Dean of Students, Student Accounts, and the Registrar’s offices also worked with veteran students in the transition.
Meg Nowak Borrego, dean of students, said her office continued to work with student veterans as well as interviewing applicants for the coordinator of Military & Veterans Services position.
The Dean of Students Office works in conjunction with the Office of Military & Veterans Services to help with counseling, mental health, and academic life, Nowak Borrego said.
She added this way, they hope to “connect the dots.
“Hopefully they [veterans] feel [like] an integral part of our community,” she said.
Aldrich said his main role is to help students navigate their veteran assistance education benefits.
One of the projects Aldrich has been working on is transitioning the student veteran page from Blackboard to Canvas.
He said Canvas is a place for veteran students to connect by asking questions or having a general discussion.
“I think it’s good that they can meet and see that others are there to help them through it,” he added.
According to Aldrich, the office can also assist with food and housing insecurities.
The office itself, located in Dwight Hall 113, offers a space where veterans can go to relax and do homework. It is dedicated in honor of Michael Haskell, an FSU alumnus and Marine Corp. veteran who was killed in combat in 1983.
The room is a communal space with four large windows and a couch. The room has some commodities, including a microwave, catscreen TV, and Keurig Coffee Maker.
There is also a small safe where students can donate money for communal snacks that are provided by members of the office.
Alex Morais, a junior criminology major, said the space has a convenient location. Instead of searching
for a quiet spot around campus, he said he can just come to Dwight Hall 113.
“In here, you have plenty of space to study,” Morais said.
Morais, who is a member of the Inactive Ready Reserve Marine Corp., said he is happy to have discovered the office.
Morais said the Veterans’ Office offers “plenty of space to study.”
Mike Legere, a senior biology major and an active-duty member of the Army, said he frequents the office now.
“If you see someone in here, they’re going to be a friendly face – even if you don’t know their name, or their branch, or their service history,” Legere said.
He said he is happy with Aldrich’s performance as director so far. Starting in a pandemic, he said that Aldrich had to learn everything and “hit the ground running.
“Sometimes, this whole school-college experience is far more stressful than even being in the Middle East,” Legere added.
He said the Veterans Services Center offers a safe, secure, and quiet place.
FSU was ranked eighth among four-year universities by College Factual in the 2020 Best Colleges for Veterans in Massachusetts. FSU placed in the top 10% among the 81 schools surveyed.
President F. Javier Cevallos said, “We’ve worked hard to dedicate the necessary resources to our student veterans to ensure they succeed at FSU.”