Public Affairs

Easing the Transition from Soldier to Student

November 29, 2012
By Stephanie Thara

“The CSU is working hard to be more than just veteran friendly. We want to help veterans be successful in achieving their educational goals.”—CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed

Throughout Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s tenure at the California State University, he has spearheaded numerous programs that ease the transition from soldier to student. Reaching out to military branches to help recruit student veterans, providing more services for veterans at the 23 CSU campuses and creating a seamless pathway to a productive career following military service have all been priorities under his leadership.

Chancellor Reed established the CSU Veterans Admissions Program in 2009, which sets aside 115 seats for veterans and active duty members exiting the service. The program streamlines the admissions process, and applicants are admitted based on the recommendation of their commanding officer.

Holly Shaffner, who retired from the U.S. Coast Guard after 24 years, received one of the 115 slots in fall 2011 at San Diego State.

Shaffner represented her fellow veterans as one of San Diego State’s 2012 homecoming queen nominees. “After receiving information about the Veterans Admissions Program from the Coast Guard, I immediately applied for this unique opportunity,” said Shaffner. “I was transitioning out of the military and wanted structure and routine, and I knew I needed a degree to go back into the workforce.”

Thanks to priority registration because she is a student veteran and a streamlined admissions process that easily transferred her military credits, Shaffner is slated to graduate in 2014. She attributes part of her success as a student to SDSU’s Veteran’s Center and specifically to SDSU Military Liaison Officer Frank Roberts, who provided academic and emotional support, demonstrated what services and facilities are available on campus, and introduced her to other student veterans.

“The biggest lesson I have learned so far is that you don’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it,” said Shaffner. “The classes I took at SDSU— especially philosophy and sociology—really opened my eyes and I realized how much there still was to learn.”

Overcoming the challenges of leaving the military and going back to college after 15 years, Shaffner has made good progress toward her degree in communications and public relations. She hopes to give back to veterans by using the skills and knowledge acquired through the military and at SDSU to help non-profit organizations benefit veterans.

Creating programs that help servicemembers like Shaffner receive a higher education is just one of the many student veteran initiatives Chancellor Reed has overseen. He has also emphasized partnering with nearby military bases to provide educational opportunities for individuals looking to join the armed forces, as well as carving career paths for soldiers transitioning out of the military. He has encouraged the development of flexible online courses that cater to servicemembers who are unable to physically attend a CSU campus. All campuses also offer veterans priority registration and maintain staff dedicated to supporting veterans. Under his leadership, the CSU has made it a priority to help servicemembers transition to college life, earn a degree and establish productive careers following military service.