GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 13, 2013

Salem State builds rep as backing vets

SALEM — Tara Nolan was a first-semester freshman at Salem State University when she found out she was being deployed to Iraq.

Although it was past the deadline to withdraw from classes, the school worked to ensure Nolan, an Air Force reservist, wouldn’t receive a failing grade.

That’s just one of the many ways Nolan and her classmates say Salem State is building a reputation as veteran-friendly. The university has introduced a wealth of veterans programming and services on campus as veterans enrollment has risen steadily in recent years.

“Before that, you would never know who was a veteran (on campus),” Nolan said. “We (veterans) are kind of like a family now. We hang out off campus, do activities together.”

Seventy-five veterans will graduate from SSU this month, which is more than double the number of veterans in the Class of 2012. The college anticipates graduating roughly 1,850 graduate and undergraduate students this year.

Last week, SSU held a ceremony to award each veteran a stole to wear at graduation and a citation from the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.

And the university has reached out to veterans in other ways as well, including through offering information and counseling at events such as the “Operation Commitment to our Troops” event held April 13 at Gloucester High School’s Benjamin A. Smith Field House.

Salem State is “ahead of its time” in its support of veterans — from pairing veterans with upperclassmen mentors to allowing veterans to enroll in classes early to jump-start the complicated process of tuition reimbursement through the GI Bill, said Philip Lippens, a 35-year-old Army veteran who will graduate with a psychology major this month.

Nolan, 24, said SSU professors and staff have been more than accommodating, allowing her to do makeup work or take exams early or later than her classmates as she’s had to leave for days or weeks at a time for training and military commitments during her time at SSU.

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