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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

G.I. Blues and Golds
By Christine Clark, '06, and Sarah Alaoui, '11

The number of service personnel seeking further education has increased since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. UC San Diego has welcomed them to campus, and is ranked among the top military-friendly schools in the nation.

The campus started life as Camp Matthews, a Marine base. Now it is welcoming back veterans from the Marines and other services.

Before UC San Diego’s campus was transformed into a world-renowned teaching and research university, it was known as Camp Matthews—a U.S. Marine base specializing in marksmanship training.

Today, UC San Diego is ranked among the top 15 percent of the nation's military-friendly schools by G. I. Jobs magazine for embracing veterans as students. The results are based on the University’s efforts to assist student veterans with new initiatives, including financial aid benefits and the additional support of the campus’s student veteran organization (SVO).

“It’s essential we support our veteran students and help them find their niche on our campus,” says Penny Rue, vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “Our campus benefits from having veteran students as they bring service, life experiences, diversity and leadership to our university.”

Criteria for making the G.I. Jobs military-friendly schools list included efforts to recruit and retain military and veteran students, and academic accreditations. In September, UC San Diego hosted a Welcome Week Orientation for new student veterans—one of the initiatives implemented last year to support the campus’ 200 undergraduate students who have served in the military.

UC San Diego’s Financial Aid Office continues to counsel student veterans about available financial aid options. “A new process was recently implemented to assist veterans with registration fees while they are waiting for their Post-9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33) benefits to arrive,” says Ann Klein, director of the Financial Aid Office. “We’re also offering interest-free emergency loan funds to assist veterans in paying their rent or living expenses while they wait for these new benefits.”

Klein added that there are five types of federal aid to student veterans available through her office, including the Montgomery GI Bill.

Timothy Borch, assistant director of Transfer Student Services and Jed Schlueter, student ­affairs ­officer, both serve on the Veterans Services Workgroup, which was formed to address the needs of student veterans. “Many veterans are transfer students,” Borch says, “and we want to hear from them to learn how best we can support them.”

The workgroup helped implement initiatives such as priority course registration for student veterans and outreach efforts to local community colleges and military bases, Borch says.

In addition, Counseling and Physiological Services recently created a student veterans support group. “We want to help veterans and give them a place at UC San Diego where they can learn some wellness-enhancing skills, and experience emotional support from fellow vets,” says John Sexton, a psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services.

UC San Diego’s first-ever Student Veteran Organization was founded in 2000, and Justice Castaneda, this year’s SVO president, has helped organize campus events that celebrate and recognize students who have served. The organization was instrumental in planning Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and individual service celebrations, and  has collaborated with multiple departments to host special events and bring guest lecturers to the campus. “UC San Diego has definitely made an effort to work with the veteran students on campus to ensure that we have a fulfilling experience at the University,” Castaneda says. “And as we are all guests here, we welcome the opportunity to become involved with the campus life.”

Photograph of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

From Camp To Campus
Veteran Profiles

Jason Malig, ’11, was deployed twice while stationed with the Marines as a field medical service technician at Camp Pendleton. He served in both Operation Iraqi Freedom II and on a Marine Expeditionary Unit in various places in the Western Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. A general biology major at UCSD, Malig says, “My experiences treating the sick and injured at home and abroad made me want to pursue a career in medicine.”

Jon-Paul Bernard, ’09, served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserves as a psychological operations specialist, where his main duty was to persuade and influence the Iraqi people to support U.S. foreign policy. He is pursuing a major in political science at UCSD. “The heightened service to others that the military helped instill in me,” he says, “has driven my education for political science and international policy.”

Jessica Huerta, ’11, chose Vandenberg Air Force Base in the Central Coast of California and Travis Air Force Base in the Bay Area as her two duty stations. She is studying for a degree in sociology at UCSD. She volunteered for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and currently serves as an equal ­opportunity advisor in the Air Force. Her job is to, “promote an environment free from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and religion,” she says. “A sociology degree from UCSD will help me make a greater impact on my Wing.”

Micki Duran, ’11, was first sent to Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, for three months training, and then transferred to 29 Palms, Calif. She is now a critical gender studies major at UCSD, and is active in the Student Veterans Organization. At 29 Palms, she practiced her military occupational specialty as a ground radio intermediate repairer. “It was a little intimidating working with men at first, especially men with rank,” she says, of her experiences as a woman serving in the service, “because you hear stories about higher-ranking men taking advantage
of young women.”

Demetrius DiMucci, ’12, served as a nuclear, biological and chemical defense specialist in the Headquarters Battery 1st Batallion, 11th Marines at Camp Pendleton. He is now a molecular biology major at UCSD. “I feel like I relate to the graduate students I’ve met and just a few of the undergraduates,” he says, comparing his experience in the Marines with his ­return to school. “The two- or three-year gap between me and my contemporaries is pretty big. The world isn’t really the most friendly of places, but the University acts like an ivory tower. I even find myself losing touch with reality from time to time because of it.”