Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders: Speaks with Veterans for Education

By Megan Driscoll

Vets for Education

Veterans for Education When was Veterans for Education founded, and how did it come about?

Bryan Adams: Veterans for Education was founded in 2008 by a group of veteran students. The group started out of necessity; there were no veterans programs or groups at the university previous to the formation of V4E.

It started off mainly as a study group and social gathering. The veterans on our campus naturally gravitated to each other due to the common experience that we had all shared: our service. We focused mainly on getting good grades and helping each other deal with the everyday stresses that are often amplified for veteran students.

The group grew as more and more veterans transitioned onto our campus. As our numbers increased so did the need for better programs within Rutgers. We began to develop a plan for increasing the transition programs, which led to our group acting as an effective, cohesive advocacy unit focus on one goal: making Rutgers the most veteran-friendly university in the country. One of the objectives listed on your website is to 'promote a positive portrayal of veterans.' In what ways do you think that the image of veterans needs to be improved on college campuses, and what work have you done to correct that?

BA: I believe that veterans are the future leaders of our country. Many of us have been through unique experiences that the average college student has not.

I also feel that veterans should set the example for everyone to follow. On our campus we do this by getting good grades, participating in class dialogue, contributing to the diversity of the lessons and being community leaders. While in the military, soldiers embody a strong sense of duty and professionalism. We believe that veterans should carry this on in their academic endeavors as well.

There are many misconceptions and distortions of what a veteran is or looks like, such as the blurring of the distinction between the soldiers serving and the foreign policies of our country. Careful not to confuse the two, we reiterate the fact that our veterans share a diverse set of beliefs and principles similar to the majority of the U.S. population. We mainly want to show everyone that we are serious students who are committed to making this country and university better for everyone. The other objective listed on your site is to 'promote the value of education.' Can you please elaborate on the importance of education for veterans?

BA: I believe education in any capacity is the most crucial factor in the veteran-to-civilian reintegration process. We encourage all veterans to utilize their G.I. Bill benefits in college. With the unemployment rate among veterans hovering around 15 percent, veterans cannot afford to be in the workforce without an education.

College is also an opportunity for veterans to grow as people and to learn in-depth about subjects for which they feel passionate. This in turn makes them more marketable in the workforce and hopefully leads them to more lucrative careers.

The original G.I. Bill was one of the most impactful pieces of legislation in recent history, helping hundreds of thousands of World War II veterans go to college. We want to continue this tradition and make veterans the next leaders of America. What initiatives have you launched to increase education access among veterans?

BA: Through our advocacy efforts we have helped to attract veterans to Rutgers both personally and at an institutional level. After an intensive campaign of editorials, emails and panels, the university began to adopt more veteran-friendly programs. We now have committee meetings that focus on veteran-specific programs at all three campuses. We also have a veteran-specific orientation that caters to newly entering or matriculating veterans on our campus. Additionally, there is now a program called the Servicemember's Opportunity College, which awards college credits for military occupational experience and training.

One of the most important initiatives, in my opinion, was the hiring of our Veterans Services Director, Fred Davis. Fred is the first point of contact for many veterans who may be interested in attending Rutgers. He contacts them and helps them with the application process and educates them on the benefits they may be entitled to as a student veteran.

In addition to helping implement these programs at Rutgers, we've directed panel discussions with a consortium of nine state universities in New Jersey composed of administrators and student life members who deal with veterans to implement some of these programs on their own campuses.

On a personal level, I try to persuade every veteran I meet who may be on the fence or vaguely interested to get into college. What programs do you personally participate in to support veterans on the Rutgers campus?

BA: As of right now I am the president of Veterans for Education. I serve on several veterans committees both on the Camden campus and the university-wide committee in New Brunswick. I also participate in panel discussions, educating faculty and the administration about pertinent and current veterans issues. Veterans for Education also manages a veterans scholarship fund. Please tell us more about this program.

BA: The scholarship was started by one of the founders of our organization, a gentleman by the name of William Brown. William was a former Navy SEAL of eight years. He decided to start a military and veterans scholarship simply because none existed at the time.

In order to raise money for the scholarship, Mr. Brown physically ran from our campus here in Camden to the main campus in New Brunswick, a distance of 65 miles. It took him 11.5 hours. The run raised over $10,000, which was a great start to the scholarship fund.

Over the next year we hosted events on campus to raise money, including bake sales and luncheons. In January of last year one of our members, a Rutgers student by the name of Jeremy Kane, was killed in Afghanistan. In order to honor him we hosted a benefit run through his hometown, which had several hundred participants and raised around $12,000 for the scholarship fund.

After this event we renamed the scholarship in Jeremy's name and are in the process of raising more money still. If we can get it up to $50,000 it will become a permanent endowment here at the university. We are working with Jeremy's mother and former high school to determine how the scholarship will be paid out. Do you have any new initiatives in the works, and can you tell us about them?

BA: We are currently organizing the second annual Jeremy Kane Benefit Run to honor our fallen classmate and member. The run goes through Jeremy's hometown beginning at his former high school. We have gathered the support of the local community and school systems to participate. Our objective for this run is to raise more money for the military and veterans scholarship fund mentioned above. Veterans for Education is a branch of Student Veterans of America, a national organization. Can you describe the larger organization for our readers, and tell them how they might get involved with a group in their area?

BA: Founded in 2008, Student Veterans of America is a coalition of student veterans groups on college campuses across the United States. SVA has two major components: the executive staff and student veteran groups. SVA member chapters are student groups that have formed on college and university campuses to provide peer-to-peer networks for veterans who are attending those schools. These groups coordinate campus activities, provide pre-professional networking and offer a touchstone for student veterans in higher education. Each local group plays a critical role in ensuring that all veterans are successful after their service.

For more information about SVA, please contact our staff at Finally, I'd like to give you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about the mission and achievements of Veterans for Education.

BA: When I look back on what we have achieved and how far the university has come in the past few years it is pretty amazing. This just reinforces our belief in our cause and proves that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.

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