After a push by student veterans that lasted more than a year, the university is working toward establishing a full-time coordinator for veterans affairs after hiring a part-time coordinator last month.

David Shearman (SFS ’11), a student veteran who served six years in the army before arriving at Georgetown, was hired for the part-time position on Feb. 23 and officially began his new job the week before spring break.

From his office in Healy Hall, Shearman has been working with prospective students, accepted students and current students who need help with anything from tutoring to paperwork. He even helps recent grads with job placement.

“The basic role is to connect student veterans with the resources they need to succeed at Georgetown,” Shearman said.

Members of the Georgetown University Student Veterans of America have been involved in discussions with the School of Continuing Studies about the possibility of funding a full-time position.

“SCS is exploring a range of options which could include establishing a new position to meet the needs of student veterans, many of whom take advantage of Yellow Ribbon benefits in SCS programs,” said Maggie Moore, a communications officer for the university.

While plans for the new position are still being finalized, veterans celebrated the efforts thus far as an important first step.

“This represents a commitment by the university to step up and do what it needs to do to take care of student veterans,” Shearman said.

One of the key tasks of the new coordinator is to act as a liaison between students and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Erik Brine, president of GUSVA, said he and other officers previously put in around 50 hours a week to help take care of administrative work and provide support to student veterans.

In addition, Brine said that at most schools the position of a certifying officer, who is responsible for confirming that students requesting benefits are enrolled, is a full-time job. Yet for D. Heath Scott, assistant registrar for athletics, veterans affairs and certifications at Georgetown, it is just one of many responsibilities.

“It’s been a year and a half that it’s been our number one priority,” Brine said of the effort to push for a designated administrator.

For now, Scott will remain the certifying officer, but Shearman said he is taking over many other duties that used to be scattered or performed by GUSVA members.

For Barbara Mujica, the faculty adviser for GUSVA and a professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, working to enhance the experience of the veterans at Georgetown has been a personal concern of hers.

“There was really nothing for the veterans,” said Mujica, whose son served two tours in Iraq as a member of the Marine Corps.

Shearman said that while there are no official numbers on the total number of veterans attending Georgetown, there are 271 enrolled students currently receiving veterans’ benefits. Mujica estimated that the total number is around twice that.

She said once she began involving GUSVA members in meetings with the administration, things began moving more quickly. Mujica and Brine both said they have never lacked in support from the administration and campus community.

“But sometimes it’s hard to turn support into action,” Brine said.

Mujica said that it was critical to have a full-time position to coordinate programs directed at veterans.

As part of a working group created by Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, Mujica has been working to connect with other on-campus organizations that provide services to student veterans. She said the group found that many organizations, such as the Academic Resource Center, Campus Ministry and Health Education Services, offered programs for veterans.

“We weren’t aware of what everyone else is doing,” Mujica said.

Shearman said he is still trying to identify all the places where the office can help by reaching out to other administrators and campus organizations.

“Since I’m the first person in this position, I’m kind of creating it,” he said.

Mujica said the details of the planned full-time position are still being worked out. Ideally, she said the coordinator would be both a veteran and a Georgetown graduate.

For now, the full-time position would likely replace the current part-time post. Eventually, she said the goal is to have an office staffed by a full-time coordinator as well as a part-time program director and supported by students receiving work-study benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Brine said he was cautiously optimistic about the possibility of a full-time position being established.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*