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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

University establishes new Office of Military and Veteran Affairs

The University announced the establishment of an Office of Military and Veteran Affairs (OMVA) in a press release Wednesday. According to the release, the office will expand the University’s support for Notre Dame-enrolled veterans and their families, active-duty and ROTC students and those who are dependents of service members.

The office will be led by Regan Jones, who, according to the OMVA’s website, is a United States Marine Corps veteran who came to Notre Dame in 2014. Jones said he was hired as the director of the OMVA in September, and since then has accomplished “a lot of work” through collaboration with various resources, offices and departments at the University.

“The creation of this office is really special because I’m in a position to help foster sort of this connective tissue amongst pockets of excellence to create an ecosystem and ensure that these [military-connected] students have a robust Notre Dame experience,” Jones said.

Provost Thomas G. Burish said in the press release that the Military and Veteran Initiative Steering Committee, an organization Jones said he was involved with for 10 months before the OMVA’s establishment, led the initiative to create the new office.

“With this new [OMVA], we will further strengthen our commitment to serving those who have given so much to our nation and the University,” Burish said in the press release.

According to the release, the new office will focus on growing the military-connected undergraduate and graduate student populations and developing targeted services to meet their unique needs. Jones said his immediate goals for the office are centered on “infrastructure and capacity.”

“An important first step includes things that may not seem very exciting: how do we tag and track these types of [military-connected] students on campus, what’s the success rate and what programs are they interested in,” Jones said. “That’ll tell us a little bit about not only how to support the students we have but how to attract more.”

Jones said the OMVA will also expand existing programs such as The Warriors Scholar Project, a program designed to help service members pivot from the battlefield to the classroom, and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), among others. As an example, Jones said, the OMVA is working with the enrollment division to further support ROTC students through financial aid for room and board.

“We’re going to leverage all of the available resources and work with different stakeholders depending on what program we’re talking about,” Jones said. “So looking with the enrollment division and our deans to think about how we can structure not only our financial aid, but also more development and recruitment strategies to attract [military-connected students] for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.”

Jones said when he considers the community aspect of the OMVA, he believes it is important to both integrate the students into the campus community and ensure that they have a network they can meet and connect with in a “really deep and meaningful way.”

“Being someone from the military [with a] military background, I put myself in the minds of these students,” Jones said. “They’ve done incredibly brave things, [such as going] overseas in combat, but they’re terrified about their next act and what life looks like after service. I feel fortunate to be able to help create a bridge for them from service to their next act and ensure that they’re successful, that they have a robust Notre Dame experience and that they go out and graduate and become a force for good so it’s super exciting.”

The announcement comes during a special time, Jones said, in terms of the backdrop of the football game between Navy and Notre Dame to take place this Saturday.

“It’s really special, that historical relationship [Notre Dame has] with the U.S. military in general, but more specifically, the U.S. Navy and that rich, deep history in relationship with Navy that really kind of saved the University back in the 1940’s,” Jones said.

According to the OMVA website, during World War II more than two-thirds of the Notre Dame student body enlisted in the military, placing the University in “dire financial straits.” However, after the creation of a Navy program through which 12,000 officers were trained on campus and the University was financially “kept afloat,” former University president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh promised to play the Naval Academy in football every year.

“The bonds between Notre Dame and the U.S. military predate the American Civil War and have grown stronger over many years, as successive generations of Notre Dame graduates and Holy Cross priests have served our nation in times of war and peace,” Burish said.

Laura Carlson, vice president and associate provost and chair of the Military and Veteran Initiative Steering Committee, said in the release that she believes Notre Dame can achieve singular distinction as one of the nation’s “best universities for veterans, military, ROTC and their families.”

“In Regan Jones, a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran who has spent the past three-plus years getting to know the University from a variety of perspectives, we have the ideal leader to direct us in this endeavor,” Carlson said in the release.