Student Veterans Find Support, Compassion, Camaraderie at MCCC

by Alana J. Mauger

For the fifth consecutive year, Victory Media has designated Montgomery County Community College  as a “Military Friendly School,” positioning the institution among the top 20 percent of colleges and universities in the country for its veteran support services.

Veteran services are a part of the College’s overarching Student Success Initiative – expanding access to higher education and increasing student success through process improvements and support strategies that reduce the barriers for students to complete their education.

A wide array of veterans’ resources – orientation, advising, study groups, a lounge and even yoga – makes MCCC eligible for “Military Friendly” status. However, it’s the genuine compassion and commitment of the College’s faculty and staff behind these resources that is the true champion.

A unique group of faculty and staff – the Veterans Support Team – has taken on the charge of assisting student veterans in their transition from active duty to civilian life. The team, which self formed in 2007 out of a shared commitment to student veterans, includes representatives from advising, counseling, financial aid, enrollment services, academic affairs, business and finance and veterans services.

“Our goal is to make sure the infrastructure is aligned to support the success of our student veterans,” explained team member and Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Ann Marie Donohue. “We’re able to respond to issues quickly because we’re communicating and problem solving across departments.”

“It’s important for student veterans to know who we are and know that they can talk to each of one of us — that we can be advocates for them,” added Tracey Richards, director of financial aid and member of the support team.

The Veterans Support Team meets monthly in the Veterans Resource Center – a small farmhouse at MCCC’s Central Campus in Blue Bell that was renovated last November with grant funding from the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. The Center serves as a “home base” for student veterans and includes a lounge, meeting areas and offices for the College’s Veterans Services staff.

The Veterans Resource Center is also the hub for members of MCCC’s Student Veterans Organization — an official chapter of the Student Veterans of America. The group operates as a student club through the College’s Office of Student Leadership and Involvement, and members actively participate in campus and community events. Last year, the Student Veterans Organization hosted an appreciation dinner at VFW Post 32 in Lansdale to recognize individuals and groups that support veterans in the community.

MCCC’s student veteran enrollment has more than doubled over the past five years, with 413 veterans enrolled this fall. To accommodate this growth, the College recently hired a full-time Coordinator of Veterans Services, Justin Machain, a Marine Corps veteran who previously served as coordinator of the Military Student Center at Austin Peay State University.

To learn more about Veterans Affairs at Montgomery County Community College, contact Justin Machain at 215-619-7307 or jmachain@mc3.edu. For information about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, visit gibill.va.gov.

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