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Virtual Series to Educate Campus about Challenges, Services for Veterans

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Brad Baumgardner, coordinator of veterans services at Buffalo State College, wants the campus community to know about the many services available to its veteran students, the challenges they face, and the alumni who have carved out successful careers.  

He and Kristin Fields, director of Continuing Professional Studies, the office in which the college’s Veterans and Military Services Office is housed, decided to recognize Veterans Day 2020 by doing just that. They organized a three-part virtual series that will take place November 10 and 12 from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m., and November 13 from noon to 1:00 p.m. via Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom. All sessions are free and open to the community. 

Veterans and Military Services held a Silent March for 10 consecutive years to commemorate Veterans Day. Organized in part by alumni, it included past and present service members, their spouses and dependents, and first responders. Baumgardner, who served both active duty and in the reserves of the U.S. Air Force and joined Buffalo State in 2016, noted that current students expressed a desire for a slightly different celebration.   

“We held a couple of events prior to the pandemic, including one highlighting female veterans,” he said. “This fall, with so many things going virtual, we thought it would be the perfect time to host this series.” 

Fields said her office has been looking for new ways to integrate her office into campus and give veterans more exposure.  

“The silver lining of COVID is that we’ve had to rethink how to stay in contact with others,” she said. “Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to do a silent march gave us the opportunity to host these workshops for students, faculty, and staff. It’s something we’d like to repeat in the future.” 

The roughly 350 student veterans on campus come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, Baumgardner said, and they all have much to contribute to Buffalo State. 

“However, the majority of our students need acclimation,” he said. “Maybe four months ago, they were fighting in Afghanistan, and now they’re sitting in a classroom next to 18-year-olds who didn’t have that experience. We wanted to use this virtual platform as an opportunity to erase any negative stereotypes, and talk about what our students need to be successful, as well as what services are available across campus to help them.” 

Baumgardner also connected with the Western New York chapter of Higher Ground, which uses recreational activities and therapy to support individuals of all abilities. Two of its leaders agreed to participate in the series. Trey Randle, ’00, ’05, WNY Higher Ground director, will speak on November 12, and Natasha Roseboom, veteran program manager, will lead a mindfulness podcast on November 13. 

The entire lineup is as follows: 

  • Ask a Veteran (November 10)
    Open to everyone but geared toward students, this workshop will focus on experiences veteran students had before coming to college and after graduation. Kevin Reynolds, a 2004 Computer Information Systems (CIS) graduate, will share how Buffalo State prepared him for his ensuing military assignment and his career. He’s the founder and president of RBR-Technologies Inc., an IT engineering and consulting firm based in Maryland that now has more than 80 employees. A time for questions will be available at the end. No prior registration is required. 
    Join the Zoom meeting.
    Meeting ID: 885 6447 1587
     
  • Combat to Classroom: What Our Campus Does and What Our Students Need (November 12)
    In this workshop designed for faculty and staff members, Baumgardner will cover services provided to the college’s military students and their immediate family members, including financial aid, retention programs, and external resources. He and Higher Ground’s Trey Randle will also discuss the major challenges active-duty military and veteran students face and how faculty can help them adjust to the college environment. A time for questions will be available at the end. Participants can register for the Blackboard Collaborate session through the Workshop Registration System.
     
  • Mindful Mile: Mentally Prepare for the Journey (November 13)
    Higher Ground’s Natasha Roseboom will lead participants through a virtual podcast on mindfulness, a combination of practical and philosophical ideas that are specifically tailored for veterans. Meant to be listened to while walking, the podcast was partly inspired by the Professional Development Center’s recent “Podcast, Walk, and Talk Series” this semester. Please register online in advance to receive an e-mail confirmation with the Zoom link.

Photos by Bruce Fox, Campus Photographer