GW funds transitioning veterans

GW’s veteran services office earned a grant this week to help teach professors how to transition soldiers-turned-students from the war zone to the classroom.

Veteran services coordinator Michael Ruybal, an 11-year U.S. Army veteran, will help create training sessions and webinars teaching professors how to connect with veterans and understand military culture. Ruybals’ project was one of 11 to secure funding from GW’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion last week.

The two-year old office gave out $50,000 to groups of students, faculty and staff with ideas about ways to promote different kinds of diversity on a campus that is 57 percent white.

The grant amounts will be solidified next week after groups pin down their true cost estimates, office assistant Cameron Smither said. Each will likely range from $1,000 to $10,000.

Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Academic Success Helen Cannaday Saulny, who helped select winners out of a pool of 26 proposals, said she looked for ideas that could last beyond this semester and impact multiple groups of people. Other winning proposals include increasing job opportunities for disabled students and addressing the smaller proportion of women in economics fields.

“We had some really exciting applications, which showed how much thought went into it,” she said.

Nearly half of the projects will explore teaching methods as part of their research, trying new approaches to deal with diversity in the classroom.

Physics professor Gerald Feldman said just 20 percent of GW students who initially declare a major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics end up graduating in that field – about half the average reported nationally. That figure is even lower for underrepresented groups like women and minority students, he said, which jumped 3 percent this year to about 39 percent. The School of Engineering and Applied Science also hired three female professors in 2012.

The group wants to use their grant to hold events to highlight unconventional STEM career opportunities.

“A lot of times people just focus on the diversity,” chemistry professor LaKeisha McClary said, “but there’s something different about making people feel like they belong, and also that they deserve to be there.”

The team will also look to train faculty to work with – and eventually attract – a wider array of female, non-white, first-generation college and international students to the fields.

“We need to learn how to be inclusive. We need to understand why we sometimes don’t reach out, why we sometimes can’t reach out,” biology professor Hartmut Doebel said.

The next round of grant applications will be due May 1 for grants that will be used from July 1 until June 30, 2014.

Another group secured a grant to promote diverse student groups around campus. Freshman Oz Fishman and senior Arielle Ford will spearhead an “I am GW” campaign, complete with posters, buttons and stickers to showcase students who identify with multiple communities and diverse groups on campus.

Chloe Sorvino contributed to this report.

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