University Recognized For Veteran Education Excellence
Oct. 7, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins
Sam Houston State University and its Veterans Resource Center were honored Tuesday as a recipient of the 2022 Veteran Education Excellence Recognition Award (VEERA) by the Texas Veterans Commission’s (TVC) Veterans Education Program.
SHSU was one of 15 Texas colleges to receive the Gold Award. For Fernando Chavez, director of SHSU’s Veterans Resource Center, the distinction is not only a reflection of how far the university has come in serving its heroes, but the state and nation, as well.
“Fifteen years ago, there were just a small handful of veterans resource centers on college campuses throughout the nation,” said Chavez, who served in the U.S. Navy and has worked at SHSU’s VRC since 2011. “Now, if you look at any university, it’s there. It goes back to our university system, our president’s office and our campus-wide leadership. They knew the need was there to better assist our students as they navigate higher education. It all starts from the top and their commitment.”
The organization evaluated several criteria in their selection process, including the presence of a potential place for students who are veterans to meet and find assistance, a university’s participation in Veterans Affairs’ work study program and academic assistance for students who are veterans.
“It is truly a campus-wide endeavor, not just the VRC,” Chavez said. “There is such a commitment to make our campus a world class partner for our military-connected students.”
SHSU’s VRC, which was updated in January of 2021, is just one aspect that sets the university apart from others. The department offers a welcoming atmosphere for students with a team of staff committed to providing services and hosting events. With currently 594 confirmed veteran students enrolled at SHSU, the department continues to expand and find new ways to connect with more vets.
“We now have seven full time staff members and six student workers,” Chavez said. “Back in 2011, there were only two staff members and one student worker.”
They also have Veterans Affairs employee Roberta Ardoin on staff. Ardoin has been with the VRC since 2012 and works as the VetSuccess on-campus counselor. Only a small number of universities throughout the nation can boast a Veterans Affairs employee as a team member.
“It is a collaborative effort with the entire university coming together and actually understanding the needs of veterans and assisting those veterans to get them past the transitional phase of education,” said veterans education director for TVC David Salgado at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Being a nontraditional student can be a little rough. I was a nontraditional student.”
Salgado went on to read the award for the crowd.
“This award is authorized by the Texas Legislature to recognize institutions of higher education for excellence in providing education and related services to student veterans and military connected students. Your commitment to supporting the needs of these students and providing exceptional services has significantly contributed to their academic success and is greatly appreciated by all Texas veterans and specifically the Texas Veterans Commission.”
Other Texas colleges receiving the Gold Award along with SHSU included Angelo State University, Collin College, Northeast Lakeview College, Palo Alto College, St. Philip’s College, San Antonio College, South Texas College, Texas A&M University (College Station location), Texas A&M University (Corpus Christi location), Texas A&M University (San Antonio location), Texas State University, University of North Texas, University of Texas Arlington and University of Texas Dallas.
Texas A&M University (Texarkana location) and Del Mar College received the Silver and Bronze Awards, respectively.
Over the next few weeks, SHSU veterans can schedule one-on-one sessions with any of the VRC’s three coordinators. It is located in Academic Building III on campus in Suite 110. Students can also contact the center at 936-294-1046 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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