A Q&A with Denise Rodak, Coordinator of Veteran and Military Resources, Center for Advising and Student Transitions
In 2009, Denise Rodak was charged with creating and managing the University’s new Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. Today, she is an advocate for the more than 220 veteran and military students enrolled at the University. She is clearly doing something right: for four years running, GI Jobs magazine has ranked Montclair State among the nation’s top schools for vets and military students.
What are your primary responsibilities as Coordinator of Veteran and Military Resources?
I am either the secondary (if students are in a major) or primary (if they are undeclared) academic advisor for all undergraduate veteran and military students. I also work with campus partners to ensure these students have the tools they need to succeed.
I conduct new student orientation programs for incoming veteran/military students and teach a first year seminar course that helps ease the overall transition from the military to higher education. I develop and implement academic and social programming for these students, including a veteran-only yoga class. I advise the Montclair State Student Veterans Association and also support and participate in Center for Advising and Student Transition (CAST) programs.
Do you think veterans and military students have an edge?
Yes, I definitely think so. They view college as their next mission and approach their coursework with determination. They are also not afraid to participate in class and they play an active role in their learning.
What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
It’s seeing the students succeed! I work with them from acceptance to graduation and I take an active role in their academic and personal growth. At the end of each semester, we gather to congratulate those who are graduating. Graduating veteran/military students receive a red, white and blue honor cord to wear at Convocation and Commencement. Giving out the honor cords and saying a few words about each student is definitely one of the highlights of each semester!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love spending time with my husband and daughter. I also practice yoga regularly.
What did you do on your last vacation?
Last summer, my family went to Sanibel Island, Florida. We spent time at the beach, rode bikes, kayaked and combed the beach for shells. I collect shells and Sanibel Island lived up to its title of “Shelling Capital of the World.”