With deployments to Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Nolan took six years to finish a psychology major and biology minor at SSU.
Lippens, who served six years in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, including a 16-month deployment to Iraq, credited Sam Ohannesian, SSU’s director of enrollment services and veterans affairs, with coaching him through the process of enrolling through the GI Bill and adjusting to becoming a student again.
“The thing that brought me to Salem (State), to their credit, was the response I got from Sam,” Lippens said. “... Salem (State)’s implementing programs, support systems and programs that other schools don’t have yet ... I’ve got friends at other schools, they don’t even know who their veterans’ representatives are.”
The campus has a growing student veterans organization, and Ohannesian’s office also organizes resume workshops, networking and social opportunities for veterans.
SSU has created a program for veterans to take a series of courses together in their first year — a way to meet other veterans and ease the transition into higher education, said Ohannesian.
“It’s geared towards our experiences, and other things that civilians might not quite understand,” said Nolan. “It’s a space for us to put all our ideas out and have someone understand.”
It can be jarring to return from combat and find yourself sitting in a college classroom of 18- and 19-year-olds straight out of high school, said Ohannesian.
“We’re here when they (veterans) need us, no matter how much or how little,” Ohannesian said.
Ohannesian said SSU’s rise in veterans enrollment is due to a number a factors, one of which is the college’s increased veterans programming. Across the U.S., more veterans are enrolling in college because of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and troops are returning home from Afghanistan, said Ohannesian.
“What we’re doing is being passed on via word of mouth (by people) who feel Salem State has a great reputation as a veteran- and military-friendly institution,” he said. “... It’s important for us to make our campus community aware that ‘yes, we do have veterans,’” said Ohannesian.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.