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President's Corner: November

Old Dominion University's Veterans Day observance holds special meaning for the University. That's why we have scheduled it during our Student Activity Hour on Thursday, when there are no classes that would pose conflicts.

But Old Dominion's commitment to veterans and active-duty military runs year-round and has been a hallmark of our campus from its beginnings. When this institution was the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary, it adapted its curriculum to prepare students to serve in World War II, with programs such as aircraft aeronautics, civil engineering and drafting.

Today about one-quarter of our students - or more than 6,000 - are affiliated with the military, either as veterans, active duty, members of the Guard or Reserves, or their dependents. The Military Times recently ranked ODU 29th in the nation in its "Best for Vets" category for four-year colleges. The ranking was the highest of any university in Virginia and marked the fifth consecutive year that Old Dominion made the top 30.

Our outreach to military students begins before their first day of class. Every semester, the University holds a Military to Monarch orientation session specifically for those students.

Two organizations - the Military Connection Center and the Student Veterans Association - help smooth their path at Old Dominion.

At the Military Connection Center, military-affiliated students can receive help on any issue - from financial to academic. The center is in the Student Success Center, so it's easy to walk a student to the nearby math tutoring center or writing lab. The Military Connection Center also keeps students informed via quarterly newsletters and emails every two to three weeks.

The Student Veterans Association complements the center's work with a peer-centered approach, offering everything from mentoring to tips on how to navigate the GI Bill, as well as social events. As Charlie Whitestone, a graduate student in biology who is president of the association, puts it, "the goal is essentially to make it as easy as possible for incoming students to ultimately succeed in achieving a degree."

Even on commencement day, our military-affiliated students stand out, with special red, white and blue graduation cords. Not surprisingly, they tend to choose majors, such as criminal justice, nursing and engineering, that are in high-demand fields and that allow them to continue their commitment to service.

We continue to look for new ways to help these students. This semester Old Dominion became the first Virginia university to participate in the PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veterans Education) program, which provides a mentor for every entering student who wants one. Our other benefits for military-affiliated students include priority course registration and free training at the Student Recreation Center.

Old Dominion's Veterans Day ceremony will begin at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Kaufman Mall near Webb University Center.

Speakers will include U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner; Rear Admiral Patrick A. Piercey, commander of Naval Surface Force Atlantic, and a student veteran, Sgt. Josh Weaver. Our Army and Hampton Roads Naval ROTC Units, which have a total of nearly 400 students from six local colleges and universities, also will participate.

I invite you to join us as we honor the men and women who have protected and sacrificed for our nation. If, as the writer Joseph Campbell suggested, "a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself," we are surrounded by heroes in Hampton Roads.

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