Chancellor's Friday Letters

Educating Our Veterans

Educating Our Veterans

February 5, 2010

Dear Friends,

“You’ve served us; now let us serve you – with a college degree.”

This opening phrase came alive for me again this past week, as I interacted with our veterans who are now engaged in completing their university education. These men and women have made enormous and lingering sacrifices for our freedom, and now they turn to education to create the opportunities for the balance of their lives.

Indeed, at the University of California, Riverside, we currently enroll 123 veterans, as well as 25 reservists and 4 active military. Some report injury-induced learning disability, and many have unique needs.

Last Saturday evening we celebrated veterans at our nationally televised men’s basketball game. It was inspiring to visit with these individuals. In conversation with one veteran, who is on track to graduate from UCR this spring, I learned about some of the deficits and challenges he has overcome because of the injuries he sustained during his service to America. I look forward to the enormous privilege of handing this graduate his degree this spring during Commencement, and to meeting his family.

In today’s wars, so much of the death, injury and damage are caused by improvised explosive devices (IED), as was the case for our student. We know that IEDs cause horrible orthopedic and vascular injuries that often kill. However, advances in immediate field medical care also mean that injuries that would have been fatal in the past may no longer be so. Thus, many of the injuries that these heroes suffer are neural impairments induced by the horrific percussive forces of these devices.

These impairments can affect coping, learning and cognitive functions, which can often be accommodated by changes in teaching and learning approaches. The emotional aspect of the disability presents additional challenges for these veterans, as does the persisting reality of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Coincidentally this week, my wife Karen and I were moved by a note from leadership of the University of Idaho, where we set up a program to help assist such students (the opening phrase of today’s Friday Letter is from this program). The note read, “Thanks for all you did in order to get Operation Education going at the UI. It seemed such a monumental task, many man hours for such a small group of students. I thought of you because this morning we were discussing the scholars graduating in May… All are overcoming, but will never fully overcome, their injuries and experiences… You will never know what your initiative and work on this project has meant to these students and their children. It is beyond measure.”

For many veterans with disability, returning to a productive and satisfying life is about availing themselves of comprehensive and integrated support. When done well, we should be able to craft individualized packages that provide financial, academic and social support.

We should be able to help coordinate and supply resources – such as tuition, fees and books, housing, transportation, medical assistance, child care, adaptive equipment, tutoring and mentorship, in acknowledgement to the diverse challenges that accompany returning to civilian life, adjusting to life with a disability, and working to earn a college degree. We should also be able to engage the willing support of the business community to offer internships and assist in job placement.

UCR has many strong programs to help veterans, and we have initiated conversations to develop an integrated support program here similar to what we have done before. The need is great. If you have ideas or would like to help, please contact us.

Warm regards,


Tim White, Chancellor

You Can Come Home Again to UCR
And a welcome will await you in the form of an ice skating rink, a bonfire, basketball, reunions and a hike to the C as part of UCR’s Homecoming celebration Feb. 8 through Feb. 13.

Medical Breakthroughs May Be Around the Corner
UCR is the first campus in the country to install cutting-edge equipment in a new central stem cell research facility at Keen Hall. Available to researchers campus-wide and regionally, the facility promises major breakthroughs in the fight against disease.

Al-Qaeda and ‘White Oleander:’ These Stories and More During Writers Week
World famous literary luminaries, including The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright and Janet Fitch, author of “White Oleander,” will share the inside story of their award-winning and highly successful creations. http://newsroom.ucr.edu/news_item.html?action=page&id=2247

Wondering what else is going on at UCR? It’s all listed at http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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