As the early 2000’s saw a high number of veterans returning for a military-paid-for college education, Chapman University discovered these returning veterans’ problems fit three categories: mental health, housing, and employment.
Which is why Chapman created the Chapman Veteran Resource Center last year on Shaffer Street, adjacent to the Masson Family Beach Club.
“You can find everything you need to know about Chapman and resources available there. And the staff are all veterans,” said junior Hernan Rodriguez, a four-year Marine now seeking a career in physical therapy.
The center director, Blas Villabos, a veteran himself, hopes the center will help the university see a steady increase in veteran population.
Villabos advises veterans: “Your military experience is a valuable resource as you continue your education and advance your career. You can and should use that experience to improve your own life, and the lives of others.”
As of this academic year, 104 students use the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits for education support. Of the 104, 56 are veterans and 48 are dependents.
Chapman collaborated with the VA to provide the Yellow Ribbon Program, which 66 students are currently using. It adds $17,500 to the VA’s educational package, giving veterans up to $35,000.
The Yellow Ribbon Program, started by the VA, was enacted to provide opportunity for veterans and dependents to access education both through private universities and public universities for out of state students.
Chapman is unique in that it offers the program to any form of higher education including undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs. In addition, unlike other universities, Chapman does not cap the amount of recipients of the program.
The Chapman Veteran Center provides these additional resources:
In the last two years, Chapman has started a mentorship program for veterans and dependents. Last year Chapman had 16 veteran mentors, and this year expanded the mentors to include dependents. The goal is to help veterans transition to college life.
“It gives them someone they can relate to, and someone they can talk to,” Villabos said.
Chapman offers support through both the Student Psychological Counseling Services and the Francis Smith Center for Individual & Family Therapy.
“Often times veterans don’t want to go to their schools’ clinical counselor because they don’t want other veterans seeing them in that area,” said Villabos. “They automatically assume others will think they’re there for mental health reasons.”
For situations like these, Chapman refers to local outside agencies, including external counseling services to assist.
“(It’s) nice to have community based resources for those who are not interested in seeing someone on campus,” said Villabos.
Chapman works closely with outside agencies to give veterans the tools they need to enter the workforce upon graduation.
One particular outside agency that Chapman works closely with is Working Wardrobes. Working Wardrobes provides some of the following…
- Wardrobe services for interviews
- Assistance with resume and cover letters
- Job search strategies
One of the hardest adjustments to college for any student is the social aspect of a new environment. Veterans, mostly those over 25, can find it sometimes difficult to connect with other undergraduate students. The center tries to help them with that adjustment.
Chapman has gathered some resources to connect veterans and dependents together, including the Veterans Club. It meets every two weeks at the Cross Cultural Center, offering a chance for veterans, dependents, and spouses to gather in a casual, recreational setting.
“Unfortunately the veteran community is very non-volunteer…so they usually try to go to class and leave. So it’s been very hard for us to get a population going…sometimes three people (come to meeting) and then the next week nobody,” said the Veterans Club President, senior Melissa Borgmeyer, who is a strategic and corporate communications major.