Career center will target programs toward veterans for first time

After GW has helped veterans make the leap to campus life, its career center will now step up efforts to transition former members of the armed services into the workforce.

Michael Ruybal, the associate director of military and veteran student services, said he wants the Center for Career Services to find internships and job openings geared toward GW’s veterans – a tough prospect, as many veterans struggle to translate their experiences in the military into skills that employers seek.

“I want to see internship opportunities, career mapping and solid career opportunities,” Ruybal said. “More than anything, I want to see a variety of opportunities for our [veteran] students to take ownership and advantage of.”

So far, those services will include a specific newsletter for student veterans, a page on the career center’s website and more resources for veterans studying online or on GW’s satellite campuses.

Jason Lifton, a staffer in the military and veterans affairs office, said it’s important to have staff trained to help veterans apply for civilian jobs because it’s sometimes difficult for employers to understand veterans’ experiences.

“Very often, an employer will get a resume and will say, ‘I don’t know what this means’ and sort of push it aside,” Lifton said.

He said someone who worked as a “loadmaster” in the military may not be able to explain to potential employers that he or she has a background in managing staffs of up to 100 people.

Rachel Brown, assistant provost for university career services, said the effort will enable more veterans to use the career center’s services effectively.

“They have such different experiences, and life experiences, and so they may not be as engaged as traditional students,” Brown said.

GW is one of hundreds of universities nationwide under pressure to improve their career support programs for veterans as overseas wars wind down and more veterans enter college with the help of the G.I. Bill, which offers aid to former service members.

Over the past year, GW has poured resources into both its career services and its veterans offices, hiring its first-ever head of military and veteran services. More than 500 student veterans are enrolled at GW, a surge of about 300 percent since 2008.

Derek Regier, a 27-year-old Marine Corps veteran who studies international affairs, came to GW looking for a way to transition into the civilian workforce.

“As veterans, we’re here to get our education, get our degree and move on to the next stage,” Regier said. “So we always have that end goal in mind, and whatever steps we can take to get there, we’re very interested in.”

After serving for five years, the Illinois native said he looks forward to using GW’s veteran career services when he graduates next year.

“We’re not traditional students. We’re a little bit older than the rest, and we come in here and we’ve already been in a career field in the military,” Regier said. “And we’re here as a stepping stone, a transition to the next phase of our lives, our civilian lives, and so our outlook is a little bit different.”

Steve Gonzalez, assistant director of veterans employment and education of the national organization American Legion, said career programs like GW’s would attract student veterans looking for extra support when transitioning out of the military.

“Universities are assisting them to navigate what they have to offer without them having to ask, you know, ‘What are my benefits?’” said Gonzalez. “This also helps them get on track to graduate on time. If it weren’t for these services, veterans would just be lost.”

This post was updated Nov. 25 at 3:20 p.m. to reflect the following:

Correction appended
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Center for Career Services currently does not have services specifically for veterans. Some of the new initiatives detailed in the article have been rolled out this semester for the first time.

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