Office of Veteran Student Success opens at RIT
One-stop resource center will help veterans and their family members
“Our goal is to bring anything military and veteran related under one umbrella, offering any support they would need in one place,” said Chad Van Gorder, the new center’s director. “It can be helping them connect to education benefits, external resources for support services, career opportunities, and study abroad. We’ve got a lot of veterans in our community. A lot of younger folks come back and are not sure what they want to do. We can show them different ways we can connect and find out what’s out there for them.”
While RIT has long offered support to veterans, this is the first time a central office and space has been dedicated to support them. The office, which is part of University Studies, is in Building 400 above Global Village, in room 2040. It will be open workdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“When you do something like this, especially for prospective students who are military-related, they will feel more comfortable knowing there’s a place like this,” Van Gorder said. “This will help them feel more supported.”
A lounge is planned for the new center, where the current 242 RIT students who are veterans, or the 150 cadets in RIT’s Army and Air Force ROTC programs, can come to work, socialize, and connect with others with similar backgrounds, often moving every few years to another state or country.
“Being connected with the military is like other diverse populations. That’s the lifestyle they knew, they may not have had the consistency of going to the same high school or being with the same friends every year while growing up, the mannerisms and language are common experiences,” Van Gorder said. “So this will make it comfortable for them to share with other people to have similar experiences.”
Students who are in ROTC, veterans, or a spouse or child of an active service member or veteran can drop by the office, or contact Van Gorder.
RIT is a Yellow Ribbon School, offering tuition assistance for veterans which may not be covered by Veterans Administration. Outreach is also planned at military bases to make sure people know what RIT has to offer.
“RIT is doing a very good job at staying on pace, making sure our veterans are prepared to enter the workforce or remain certified for the workforce,” Van Gorder said. “They are to be ensured they are going to get the education they need to move right into employment and quickly make a difference.”
Jim Hall, dean of University Studies, said the new center “will help further solidify RIT’s commitment to our veterans and their families. It’s a small but important step to help thank them for their valuable service and sacrifices.”
A native of Utica, N.Y., Van Gorder served in the Army for 21 years and was stationed in Ft. Bragg, N.C.; Ft. Campbell, Ky.; Camp Greaves, Korea; Ft. Jackson, S.C.; and Ft. Drum, N.Y. He was deployed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he retired in 2014 as First Sergeant.
Prior to coming to RIT this semester, Van Gorder was director of operations for EquiCenter in Mendon, N.Y., which offered therapy for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities through equestrian and horticulture opportunities.
“I’m excited to be at RIT because we will get to help people not only to navigate their educational challenges, but to help them get to the next chapter of their lives after military service,” he said.