Uniformed service alumni organization formed at College

by Victoria Nelsen | 11/10/13 5:26pm

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by Margaret Rowland / The Dartmouth

The weekend included an annual banquet on Friday, drawing around 135 students, administrators, faculty and community members.

“It was good to come together and celebrate veterans,” said undergraduate veterans association vice president Chris Allen ’15, who served in the army as a combat engineer for three years, including one in Iraq.

A combination of the various veterans groups on campus hosted the banquet, as well as other celebrations held this weekend. Each graduate school has its own veterans group, and the Dartmouth Uniformed Service Alumni is the most recent addition to the mix.

Other events include a reveille ceremony Monday morning, a retreat and drill ceremony and various discussions throughout the week.

The alumni organization’s kickoff included panel discussions, lectures, awards and a war monument tour. Veterans were also invited to attend the football game on Saturday, during which College President Phil Hanlon presented a honorary challenge coin to Brig Gen. Burke Whitman ’78 to recognize his service. Whitman also received the James Wright Award for Distinguished Service earlier that day.

Nathan Bruschi ’10, uniformed service alumni executive director and current U.S. Navy lieutenant, said he was inspired to form the group when serving Tokyo last year and reached out to the alumni relations office for support. Bruschi said he struggled to connect with veteran alumni without an organization, inspiring him to create one.

The organization aims helps facilitate networking among veteran alumni, attract veterans to Dartmouth and encourage students to join the armed services. Around 100 people attended the kickoff this weekend.

“I think the kickoff went wonderfully,” deputy director Christina Fanitzi Tu’13 said. “I think we created the baseline of support required to grow this organization. It really set a good tone for what the organization intends and can accomplish on campus.”

Dartmouth has 17 veterans currently enrolled and between 75 and 100 at the graduate schools.

Harvard University currently had 250 veterans in undergraduate and graduate programs, and Princeton University had four enrolled in 2012. Columbia University had 459.

Matt Brandon ’16 transferred to Dartmouth this year after spending a year at Pennsylvania State University. He said he noticed that Dartmouth had a page for military veterans on the admissions website when researching transfer options and realized that the College has a strong community of veterans.

Allen said the College admissions office does a good job of connecting prospective veteran students with the undergraduate veterans association to help answer questions.

Before enrolling at Penn State, Brandon served in the Air Force and spent a year stationed in Iraq in 2010 and in Afghanistan in 2011.

Brandon said it was easy to get lost in the crowd at Penn State, where he saw people who had served in the military, who could be identified by their camouflage backpacks, but found it difficult to establish further contact.

“That lack of interaction was something that I really missed,” he said.

The undergraduate veterans association reaches out to incoming veteran students, helps them transition to college life and connects them to the veteran community on campus.

“We want people to know that we are on campus,” Allen said. “It adds to the community of ideas that we have here at Dartmouth.”

Awareness should not end with Veterans Day, Brandon said.

“Veterans Day is a time where we can really come out and reflect,” Brandon said. “The war shouldn’t be a one day thing or a one weekend thing.”

The undergraduate veterans association will continue to host events throughout the year.

Allen said he was initially nervous about returning to school after his service.

“I was really pleasantly surprised at the reception I got from students here,” he said. “They’re intelligent, they want to know what’s going on.”

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