At more than 230 strong, Montclair State’s military and veteran students are a force to be reckoned with. “They bring many soft skills – such as leadership, team work and responsibility – that are instrumental in their success in and out of the classroom to campus,” says the University’s Office of Veteran and Military Resources Coordinator Mahfuza Kochi.
Designated a “military friendly” university by veterans-owned Victory Media, Montclair State is dedicated to helping its veteran and military students smoothly move from military to academic life.
“We are proud to help our veteran and military students get the support they need to transition from service to college, and to ensure they get through as efficiently and effectively as possible,” says Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Karen L. Pennington. “We are committed to serving them as a thank you for the service they have provided to our nation.”
The University’s commitment starts even before these students reach campus. “Undergraduate admissions was extremely helpful throughout my application process because I was applying as a veteran student,” says Student Veterans Association (SVA) president and four-year veteran of the United States Navy Conor Abbamonte.
“Our office reaches out to students from the time they are accepted and stays in contact with them until they graduate – including handing out cords for graduation,” says Kochi. “Students also have individual on-boarding meetings to discuss requirements and get them set for the semester ahead.”
Babee Garcia, a junior who served in the Marine Corps for three years before enrolling as a journalism major, says she was truly happy to be accepted to Montclair State after her tour of duty ended. “I liked how it is a military-friendly campus, which accepts the Post 911/Montgomery GI Bill education benefits,” she explains. The bill, which guarantees up to 100 percent of tuition depending on the length of active service since September 10, 2001, has benefited more than a million veterans since its 2009 passage.
According to Kochi, programs such as its Veteran-to-Veteran Peer Mentorship Program ease new students’ transitions to campus life by connecting them with a current veteran or military service student. “We’ll also be starting the Voices of Valor Program next semester, which uses music to help students transition from military to civilian life,” she notes.
Garcia particularly appreciates the Agents of Change Program. “In the military, we’re used to the buddy system. Student veterans possess strong leadership skills and can teach others about accountability, responsibility, integrity and more in a program like this one,” she explains.
While the SVA considers all veterans and military-affiliated students to be default members, Abbamonte notes that it is currently re-chartering as “MSU Vet Net” – short for Montclair State University Veterans Network – to reflect its mission of helping vets in their transitions into, and out of, academia through a campus-based network of veterans.
“Montclair State – and the SVA – welcome student veterans into a campus community that is both supportive and respectful to all of those who have served,” he says.
Saluting Our Veterans
Each year, Montclair State honors veterans and current service members during Veteran/Military Recognition Week.. This year, it kicks off on Monday, November 6 with a flag-raising ceremony. Other scheduled events include veteran panel discussions, and a program fostering veteran/military awareness that are open to all. Veteran and military students can attend a resume writing workshop and yoga session. Those who donate $5 to Jeans for Troops on November 10 will support the G.I. Go Fund and the University’s veteran community – and be able to wear jeans to work.
On November 15, the School of Communication and Media will present “A Conversation with Colonel Jack Jacobs,” during which the NBC and MSNBC analyst will discuss “Covering the Military in the Age of Political Divide” – a topic of interest to military- and non-military-affiliated members of the campus community.