Chancellor's Friday Letters

Serving Those Who Served Us

Serving Those Who Served Us

November 11, 2011

Dear Friends,

Students who are veterans…there are more complexities faced by these individuals than may appear on first blush.

Before I share some thoughts about this important issue, let me speak for the University of California, Riverside, in honor of those who sacrificed their lives to serve the citizens of this  country, and commend those who have served – often at great and lingering sacrifice – and have now or soon will come home to life in the civilian world.

I wish to tell you a story of two of our students – veterans with disabilities – and ask you to pause and reflect on a new program underway here at UCR.

At issue is that for those who enter the military, there is an extensive “boot camp” experience to prepare them physically, emotionally, socially and in other ways to serve our country.  But at the end of their service to country, it seems there isn’t a strong “anti-boot camp,” if you will, to help these individuals transition back into civilian life.

The physical, emotional, and financial scars that many of these heroes carry can impede their capacity to re-enter non-military life. Higher education can provide opportunity, teaches new skills, and helps veterans regain their independence and provide for their families. Because percussive injuries are common and can lead to even deeper cognitive and neurological injury, adding to the challenge for those returning to school, there is a compelling need for solutions.

My wife, Karen, and I are committed to make a difference in the lives of veterans who are seeking a college degree through an innovative program called Operation Education. We designed and started the first chapter of this program during our leadership of the University of Idaho.

Karen, working with many talented faculty and staff here, has launched a UCR chapter of Operation Education.  It is the nation’s leading scholarship and assistance program for disabled veterans working to obtain a college degree.

The program targets full-time students who are U.S. military veterans with service-related injuries sustained since Sept. 11, 2001.  Operation Education takes a holistic approach, addressing the educational and social needs of the veterans and their families, as well as the financial, by combining the expertise of many campus departments (such as Veterans Affairs, Financial Aid, Counseling Center, Academic Resource Center, Services for Students with Disabilities) with faculty advisors, peer mentors and other related entities.

UCR is well-placed for Operation Education. We live in the nexus of three military bases and three VA facilities in a state with 2 million veterans, more than any other state in the country. Roughly 50,000 of those veterans are using the G.I. bill to further their education.

Among UC campuses, we are proud that Riverside was the first to institute priority enrollment for veterans and the first to launch a special services Website for them.  UCR has the third highest number of undergraduate veterans and the fourth highest number of graduates. This campus’s strong tradition of service to veterans dates back to the Vietnam War era.

The program caught the attention of KNBC this week.

Undergraduate Carson Sheckler provides a perfect example of the kind of support that Operation Education offers.  During his eight years as a reservist and on active duty in the Army, he suffered many injuries, including traumatic brain injury. A transfer student majoring in business economics with a minor in Latin American Studies, he certainly needed financial help to support his young family.  But he also needed academic support to counter his reading and comprehension difficulties.  Operation Education was able to finance a special kind of software that reads written text to him and then allows him to manipulate it electronically.

Like Carson, all of the Operation Education scholars are in regular contact with university and community support staff to ensure that they have all the tools they need to be successful students.

The challenges are even greater when both the husband and wife are veterans. Zaima Gonzalez was a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy, treating sick and injured soldiers.  Her husband, Omar, is a U.S.  Marine veteran and UCR graduate and they have two young children.  In civilian life, Zaima wants to become a hospital CEO. She already earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is now enrolled in the UCR M.B.A. program. She plans to get a Ph.D. in health services. Operation Education pays for the portion of her tuition that is not covered by the GI Bill.

So this Veterans Day, let us remember people like Carson and Zaima, and give back in some way to the veterans in our lives and our community who have given so much for us.

Fundraising is core to the program. The program recently received $20,000 from the Rotary Club of Riverside. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the Kiwanis Club of Riverside and more than 200 individuals have also given generously.

If you would like to know more about Operation Education, or support its work, check out the website: http://operationeducation.ucr.edu/ or write me at the link below.



Tim White, Chancellor

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Winston Chung: inventing the future
A deep thank you to Winston Chung, who invented a new kind of battery that will help the nation move from energy based on fossil fuels to energy that comes from solar, wind and other more sustainable sources. The batteries store energy for when we need to use it. On Wednesday we celebrated his vision and a $10-million gift to the campus by naming one of our engineering buildings “Winston Chung Hall.”

Go, Go, Robozilla!
I love these pictures of excited middle school students competing in teams with robot-building and boat floating as part of the MESA Robotics invitational. They ran in the Press-Enterprise last Sunday. This campus plays an important role in getting young people to think about college and careers in science.

A different kind of climate change
Rain is forecast, so the “Refresh Riverside! A Community Climate Fair” will be relocated inside the Highlander Union Building from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday. Games for the whole family related to climate change, food and free parking are all still available.

What else is happening on campus?  View: http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

More Information

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