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Support for veterans

A living memorial for the 21st century

Student Life

By Nora Daly

“The university is a living memorial, so while it is important to look back, we must also look ahead.”

Speaking on behalf of President Gary Kachanoski, Dr. Jeff Keshen, vice-president, Grenfell Campus, announced Memorial University’s intention to develop a Veterans’ Services Program (VSP).

He was addressing the Living Memorial Conference, which took place June 22-23 in St. John’s. The conference was the final initiative of the WW100 Commemorations Program 2014-19.

“I am confident that those who advocated for Memorial University College 100 years ago would be proud of the institution we’ve built,” —Dr. Jeff Keshen

Over the coming year, the university will begin the program development by determining the current veteran and military population at Memorial, conducting stakeholder engagement to learn more about students’ support needs and developing a process to consider course equivalencies for military training.

Pan-university program

Dr. Keshen noted that some of this work has already begun at Grenfell Campus. Grenfell has initiated discussions with the Department of National Defence to identify areas of cooperation with local reserve units through a memorandum of understanding. The VSP will build on and broaden that initiative to create a pan-university program.

The proposed program will address some of the unique circumstances of serving members and veterans.

Canadian Forces personnel, whether full time or reservists, may have to leave their studies abruptly to go on deployments or training. Retired members often struggle to reintegrate into civilian society and a veterans program could reduce barriers such as anxiety that may come with enrolling in university. Canadian Forces members and veterans may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or other injuries and conditions that require accommodations to be successful in post-secondary education.

A living legacy

“I am confident that those who advocated for Memorial University College 100 years ago would be proud of the institution we’ve built,” said Dr. Keshen. “I also believe that they would welcome the development of a support program for today’s serving members and veterans which reflects and respects our unique origin.”

He said it is not yet known how many Memorial students are current or former, regular or reserve Canadian Forces personnel. A conservative estimate is 500 current students.

“There is likely a substantial number of active as well as retiring members who are presently enrolled who could find value in a veterans’ support program.”

Common elements in veterans’ programs existing elsewhere include prior learning assessments and credit for military training and experience; a website as point of contact for scholarships, student supports and services; awareness training for faculty and staff; and tuition credits for students who must train or deploy.

Next steps include acquiring funding to support VSP program development and establishing a steering committee to oversee the project.

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