At its annual national conference last weekend, the Student Veterans of America recognized Northeastern’s Student Veterans Organization as its top chapter in the United States. The prestigious honor exemplified the group’s excellent service on behalf of college students who have served in the nation’s armed services.
SVO edged out 700 other university student veterans programs to capture the honor at the conference, which was held Jan. 3-6 in Orlando, Fla. The Northeastern chapter was credited for the strength of its university services and programming and its broader efforts to help student veterans across the nation.
“It was the result of a lot of hard work and dedication,” said chapter president Michael Trudeau, a Navy veteran and fifth-year political science major. “It means we’re not only leaders within the Northeastern community, but leaders in the country as well.”
The organization, which recently moved into a new space at 124 Forsyth, provides career services, advocacy, support, and special programming for the university’s veteran community. In particular, it serves 141 student veterans whose education is funded through the federal government’s Yellow Ribbon Program. The program, which operates in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides free tuition to veterans who have served in the post-9/11 era. In 2009, Northeastern pledged $2 million to help veterans earn a college education through the program, which offers students access to a full range of degree programs, including bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and law degrees.
Trudeau noted that student veterans enter college with vastly different experiences from the average student; as such, they often have unique needs that aren’t always addressed through traditional college programs and services. At Northeastern, SVO and other outreach efforts including a dedicated veterans liaison have helped make the university a more welcoming environment for students entering the university after serving in the military.
“There’s a big challenge in the overarching student veterans community because we come in with all these experiences and we’re in class with students who have just finished high school,” Trudeau said. “But there are things SVO can do that immediately make a difference. We’re having veterans talk about their experiences before classes, and we’re providing a centralized place for veterans to go to find the resources they need.”
Northeastern’s organization for student veterans is an influential chapter at the state and national level. Trudeau, for example, serves on Massachusetts’ Student Advisory Council, which advises state officials on education policy and student rights. Adam Beatty, the organization’s vice president and a Marine who has completed two tours of duty in Iraq, was appointed to the SVA Student Council, which provides advice on the organization’s national initiatives.
At the conference, Northeastern joined student chapters from Forsyth Technical Community College, Arizona State University, and University of South Florida as the four finalists for nation’s top chapter accolade. Toward the end of the conference, members from all four presented their missions, activities, and long-term plans before a distinguished panel that included representatives from the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Bank of America, Prudential, GMAC, and Google. The groups received useful feedback from the panel, and their presentations played a factor in the selection of best chapter in the nation.
The conference also included talks by high-profile military figures, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and Gen. George W. Case Jr., who served as Army Chief of Staff from 2007 through 2011.
In the coming year, SVO plans to continue improving career services programs for veterans and working with the university to help veterans find jobs after graduation.
“Our mission is to transition students from military life to being successful colleges students,” Trudeau said. “The way we see it, you can’t be a successful college student until you’ve translated that into a great career.”