The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen kicked-off a year-long "Conversation with the Country" on April 18 when he addressed Columbia University student-veterans and the larger Columbia University community at the World Leaders Forum. Mullen, who serves as the principal military advisor to the President, the Secretary of Defense and the National Security Council, began his visit at a private luncheon for more than 100 Columbia student-veterans and University officials. The luncheon was followed by a forum that highlighted the role of the U.S. military in foreign affairs and the importance of supporting veterans through higher education, career opportunities and support services.
According to John McClelland, GS student and vice-president of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University, Mullen’s effort “to connect with communities throughout the country about the challenges [the military and veterans] face to connect with America” is already working.
“The very fact that the top U.S. military officer came up from D.C. to address our concerns and tell us we were doing a fine job is absolutely amazing. The Admiral answered all of our questions thoroughly and honestly, and if he didn't have an answer, he asked for your contact information and promised to get back to you,” McClelland said.
In addition to answering questions of student-veterans, Mullen was also interested in hearing about veterans paths to higher education.
“I was very impressed by the Admiral’s genuine interest in learning more about each vet’s exit from the service and our admissions to Columbia. He was very impressed with our successes and with the opportunities we have had through the School of General Studies,” Sean O’Keefe, GS student and president of the U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University student group, said.
Columbia’s commitment to providing educational opportunities to veterans was realized in 1947 with the founding of School of General Studies which was organized in response to GIs returning from World War II. On August 1, 2009, the School renewed this commitment to an already robust community of veterans through its participation in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, a matching agreement through the Department of Veterans Affairs that is a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. When the School of General Studies’ Yellow Ribbon Program award is combined with the benefits of the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, the entire cost of education is covered for eligible student-veterans; making a Columbia education accessible regardless of socio-economic status. Since the program’s adoption, GS’ enrollment of veterans has nearly doubled to more than 100.