RIC to open Veterans Resource Center Nov. 9

The Center was established to provide support to current and prospective student veterans and their families. Several events are planned to highlight veterans' strengths and challenges as they transition from military service to academia.

Rhode Island College, named a Military Friendly School for 2010 by G.I. Jobs magazine, and deemed one of the schools in the nation to embrace America's veterans as students, will open a new Veterans Resource Center, in Building 5 on the east campus, to serve as a clearing house of information for all student veterans and their families. The opening will take place on Monday, November 9, at 3 pm.

Building 5, home of the Veterans Resource Center.
“Leaving the structure and rules of the service to navigate the college campus and its policies can be a daunting task," said Monica Darcy, RIC's coordinator of veterans programs. "RIC is committed to making that process as straightforward as possible. It's the least we can do for service members and their families who have given so much for their country,”

Darcy said that the Center will establish a supportive relationship with veteran students, provide accurate and complete information about degree requirements, and refer students to the appropriate resources to make them personally and academically successful.

RIC has 90 academic programs approved for veterans, and employs a VA (Veterans Administration) certifying official who verifies enrollment for initial and continuing veterans educational benefits.

There are more than 140 student veterans at RIC receiving benefits. About 47 are receiving the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits. “And this number is growing daily,” said Cindy Salzillo, RIC's VA certifying official.

The college also has a VA Work Group that meets during the academic year to identify ways to keep RIC a veteran-friendly place.

“The Work Group has members of many departments across campus participating in the discussion of veterans' issues, requirements, and policies to be better prepared to assist veterans,” Darcy said.

VA work-study students support the college's effort to clarify veterans benefits, college admission, retention and graduation policies, and provide resources to students regarding degree programs and careers, Darcy said.

Students who work in the Center must be veterans.

The Center will also provide literature and information on federal benefits; availability of VA services; connection to educational specialists in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard (active duty, National Guard and Reserves); the RIC Student Veterans Organization; local and national non-profits including Operation Stand Down, National Veterans Foundation, Give an Hour, SOFAR, Vet4Vets, and vet2vet peer support group.

“By placing a VA work student in the Center, we hope to strengthen our resources to assist veterans in the pursuit of their educational goals,” Darcy said.

Student veterans Travis Stockton who served in the Air Force and is now in the Air National Guard, and Alun Boyns who spent 10 years active duty in the Air Force and is now in the Air Force Reserves, staff the Center. Both agreed that the Center has made their transition from the service to the campus easier.

“The Center helped educate me in the whole world of college life,” said Boyns. “It leads (veterans) from the moment we set foot on campus to the moment we put on a cap and gown.”

RIC has also begun conducting focus groups to document the civilian academic experiences of student veterans.

In Fall 2008, RIC received a $1,200 grant called, “Student Veterans Coming to Campus: A Strengths Based Focus,” funded by American College Personnel Association to track student veteran experiences.

“Knowing what student veterans and their families are going through on our campus can help us improve services. When we focus on the strengths that our student veterans bring to our college community, we are showing how much we truly value them,” Darcy said.

Stockton added, “To me, this is a huge first step.”

For more information about the opening of the Veterans Resource Center, call (401) 456-8449; vrc@ric.edu. For general information about the Veterans Resource Center and programs, contact Monica Darcy, (401) 456-2710; mdarcy@ric.edu.