Federal grant will expand veteran services at Bellarmine

Cadet Paul Kotarski, a member of Bellarmine’s Army ROTC saluted during a flag-raising ceremony in honor of Veteran’s Day at Bellarmine University on Nov. 11, 2020. (Photo Special to The Record by Brendan J. Sullivan, Bellarmine University)

A fledgling program to support veterans at Bellarmine University has received a nearly $390,000 grant from the United States Department of Education to expand its work.

Bellarmine is one of 16 schools in the nation to receive a grant to develop a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. Bellarmine’s new center will expand the efforts of its Office of Military and Veteran Services, which was established in 2017, said school President Susan M. Donovan.

“Veterans returning to school often face unique challenges, whether those are financial, physical, psychological, academic, or a combination of factors,” Donovan said in a Feb. 2 press release. “I want to congratulate Bellarmine’s Office of Military and Veteran Services for the hard work they have done to help our veteran students succeed, and to thank the U.S. Department of Education for recognizing and rewarding this work with this grant.”

The schools’ efforts to serve veterans since 2017 have seen enrollment increase from 37 to 61 veteran students, according to the press release.

Lindsay Gargotto, an Air Force veteran who leads Bellarmine’s Office of Military and Veteran Student Services, said, “Veterans often have specific needs, whether it’s navigating a complex array of federal assistance or adapting to life with disabilities incurred in combat.”

“Our goal is to create a veteran-ready campus culture, where those needs are met and veterans can thrive and work progressively to graduation and their career goals,” Gargotto said.

The center for veteran success comes with several initiatives, including:

  • It will aim to help new veteran students transition to university life with an orientation and mentorship program.
  • The center will also aim to help faculty and staff better understand and relate to important veteran topics and issues.
  • It will also create a veteran-student support team.
  • The grant will provide space and materials, such as laptops, for veterans.
  • And it will fund a coordinator position.

According to the Dept. of Education, grant recipients will submit annual reports on their progress. Their success will be measured by “the extent to which the funded projects increase enrollment, persistence, and completion of veteran students in postsecondary education,” according to the Department of Education.

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