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CNY Veterans' Higher Education Regional Consortium supports vets in transition to higher ed

DATE: 12-06-2012

Founder speaks with NPR on need for similar organizations across nation

Twenty-six institutions of higher education located in the 13-county region of Syracuse's Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in upstate New York have formed the Central New York Veterans' Higher Education Regional Consortium (CNY V-HERC). Dedicated to supporting active duty, reserve and National Guard members, veterans and their family members in their successful civilian reintegration to the region, CNY V-HERC works to facilitate a coordinated response of advocacy, resource and information sharing and outreach, engaging veterans by utilizing their knowledge, insights and strengths.

The consortium partners with regional businesses, government stakeholders and non-profit organizations. Notable partners include the Army Careers and Alumni Program at Ft. Drum, Clear Path for Veterans, New York State VA, Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF/SU), Rochester Veterans Outreach Center, offices of U.S. Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY) and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), St. Joseph's Hospital and the Veterans Resource Center.

"As Cayuga Community College sought to enhance its support of our student veterans, we looked for ways to tap into existing veteran resources in the region. It was clear there was a lot to be gained by bringing all stakeholders-higher education, government, private sector-together to share ideas and collaborate to better serve veterans returning to CNY colleges and universities," says Sarah Yaw, consortium founder and assistant professor at Cayuga Community College (CCC).

Yaw recently spoke with National Public Radio about the circumstances that prompt a need for such a consortium. An increasing number of veterans are enrolling in schools given benefits afforded to them through the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Given the distinct experiences of these nontraditional students, there is a critical need for specialized services tailored specifically to veterans on college campuses, services not commonly offered to traditional students. Seeing this, Yaw created CNY V-HERC to develop ways to assist this unique group of students.

CNY V-HERC is guided by an advisory council that consists of veterans, educators, and community leaders, including Peter Headd of Le Moyne College, Keith Stevenson of Onondaga Community College (OCC), Janet Nelson of CCC, Steve Darman of Social Science Associates, Kevin Justin of New York State VA, Brian Knapp of CCC (student veteran), Peg Stearns of SU and James Schmeling of IVMF.

"Central New York is a region on the economic rebound. Those of us in higher education realize the region's robust higher education options and quality of life provide opportunities for a successful future to veterans and their families," says Peg Stearns, director of SU's veterans' resource center. "Consortium members' collegiality is focused on the best services for the veteran, regardless of the specific institution or agency involved. We all want Central New York to be known as a welcoming place for veterans."

Participating institutions in the consortium are Ashford University, Broome Community College, Bryant and Straton College, Cazenovia College, CCC, Columbia College, Cornell University, Empire State College, Excelsior College, Ithaca College, Jefferson Community College, Le Moyne College, Morrisville State College, OCC, State University of New York (SUNY) Binghamton, SUNY Canton, SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Cortland, SUNY Oswego, SU, Thomas Edison State College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Utica College, Utica School of Commerce and Wells College.

Organizations or entities that would like to get involved with the CNY V-HERC, or believe they can contribute to its success, are encouraged to contact Yaw at yaw@cayuga-cc.edu or (315) 592-4143, ext. 3078.

CNY V-HERC is an excellent example of higher education's positive response to the needs of America's veterans. As related to benefits afforded to student veterans through provisions of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the IVMF will bring together leading voices in the veterans' space, government, higher education and private industry for a dialogue next week on the bill's implementation and impact on veteran education. "Empowering the Next Greatest Generation: Considering the Promise of the Post-9/11 GI Bill" will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Click here to register.