As the fall semester kicks off, PLNU Military Programs and Services finishes their preparation for this unique time. Although the department’s team works remotely, they stated they are still 100% available and ready to serve PLNU’s veteran and military-affiliated population.
A virtual veterans hub is available on Canvas in the Virtual Veterans Center (VVC). If military-affiliated students are registered as a veteran student, the VVC shows up within their Canvas courses automatically. There are two separate virtual centers available, one for veterans and one for military dependents or family members. These online centers provide military-affiliated students access to various learning tools, announcements and newsletters. It also includes an application called Pronto, which allows military-affiliated students or veterans center staff to connect and interact with students in real time across PLNU’s wide-spread virtual campus.
Military Programs and Services staff help house and organize a variety of resources for military-affiliated students. Military-affiliated students range from active-duty, retired or honorably discharged veterans or their family members. As of the 2020-2021 academic year, 580 of PLNU’s 4500 students are veterans. This small yet diverse community has unique needs and goals, which Thomas Egan, PLNU’s director of military services and programs, said he fully understands.
“We have active duty, veterans and family members, and they all come from different military backgrounds,” Egan said. “There are the [five] services, then all the different jobs and backgrounds within those. There is such a variety of layers to our veteran community.”
Egan, who served 30 years in the special operation forces, worked with all services on a myriad of different missions. New to his position as Director of Military Services and Programs, he said he is ready to use his expertise to assist his fellow service members in any way.
“We are here to be a representative for our military affiliated students to the faculty or staff,” Egan said. “We can and will speak on their behalf and advocate for them.”
According to Egan, he and his staff understand veteran students may come with an assortment of service-specific challenges such as transition anxiety, PTSD or other service-related disabilities.
The center has no internal mental health services, but staff can still link students to the type of support needed, such as San Diego’s Veterans Affairs, Wounded Warrior Battalion, the Wellness Center on campus or a spiritual advisor or chaplain.
“If you are struggling, come see me; come talk to me,” Egan said. “We have a list of benevolent organizations who can and will help.”
Veterans Services Military Outreach Senior Counselor, Laura Lahn, said she feels that military-affiliated students add an important dynamic to the tapestry of the PLNU community.
“Veteran students have usually lived more life than the average student before they come to our campus,” said Lahn. “Subsequently, they bring that life experience to the classroom which can help other students expand their world view.”
Lahn helps students identify education and career goals and develop an education plan that meets their objectives within their benefits. She also encourages veterans to use tutoring, the writing center or the in-depth library services available. Above all, Lahn said she wants students to enjoy their college experience.
“My hope is that our military-affiliated students take full advantage of the [PLNU] college experience,” said Lahn. “Immersing yourself will make you appreciate the experience that much more.”
Doris Rubio, senior biology major and a Marine veteran, has done just that. She works for Military Programs and Services as a military billing assistant as part of a VA Work Study Program, where she learns how to certify veterans benefits. She is also the Student Veterans of America Chapter President.
“PLNU faculty and staff have had such a wonderful impact in my life,” Rubio said. “Military Programs and Services have also been extremely supportive in my education and development as a veteran. These individuals are constantly working towards the betterment of [this department].”
In the future, Egan and his staff hope to expand their footprint on campus. The Military Programs and Services office is located in Nicholson Commons in the Commuter and Veterans Center. Egan hopes the veterans center will eventually have its own space, where veteran and military-affiliated students can relax and commune with others who served.
If you are a PLNU military-affiliated student, log into Canvas to access your respective VVC or learn more about Military Programs and Services by emailing the department at email@example.com.
Written By: Amber Robinson