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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

October 28, 2003

Easing the transition for student veterans

In the last two years, communication studies graduate student Jeanette Davidson has spent more time with U.S. military troops than classmates. During the spring of 2002, the Air Force sent the master sergeant to Afghanistan to work with the 43rd Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. She returned for the start of the fall 2002 semester. However, the week before finals, the military once again deployed her, sending her to Germany.

University veterans affairs coordinator Heather McGowan says it isn’t easy for students like Davidson to suddenly leave school for military reasons. “There’s a lot of advance planning that needs to be done,” she says. Students who are relocated with the military not only have to take care of rent, bills and other personal affairs, they have to take care of matters with CSUS. And that’s where the veterans affairs office steps in to help.

McGowan says she recently helped a student in the National Guard who had already spent part of a semester away from school. “I said ‘Have a good semester’ and the student said ‘Thanks. I hope I can complete it,’” McGowan says. “It’s just a way of life for these men and women.”

McGowan says the Education Code provides for an extended leave of absence up to a maximum of two years for many students. “CSU campuses were authorized by the Chancellor’s Office in March 2003 to approve a leave for students called for active military service as a result of mobilization of U.S. military reserves,” she says.

McGowan says it is difficult to tell how many CSUS student veterans are returning this semester from the fighting in Iraq. “I've had a handful of students who served during the spring semester. Mostly reservists from my observations,” she says. McGowan says that this semester there are 310 veterans using their educational benefits. “Of course, this number could go up slightly since some people are registered but have not come in for certification,” she says.

An Oakland-based office for the Department of Veterans Affairs helps Northern California military personnel with their benefits, including those education-related. Spokesperson Phyllis Farrell says more than 18,000 people are receiving veterans’ education benefits in California. Nearly 3,000 of those are current active military and reservists.

McGowan says there are some limitations on how long a veteran can use his or her benefits. The time limits are usually between 10 and 12 years from the date of honorable discharge or once the military member has completed enough service. Military personnel must serve three continuous years of active duty or six years in the selected reserves. She says that once students begin utilizing their benefits, they have 36 months of entitlement as they pursue of their degree.

Brandon Lale works with McGowan as a student assistant. He’s also a veteran who has been very impressed with the office’s dedication to veterans. The criminal justice major says he has had experiences with other universities’ veterans’ services and says CSUS cares about its students. McGowan says the appreciation goes both ways. “It helps the office that someone working here has military experience,” she says.

During the week of Nov. 10, a display titled “Service to Studies: CSUS Student Military Veterans” will honor students who are also veterans. The display will include photos and anecdotes about what it means to be a CSUS student and a veteran. The display will be available for viewing on the first floor of Lassen Hall.


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •