College of Southern Maryland Joins Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans


            The College of Southern Maryland has joined community colleges and public four-year institutions in signing the Maryland Campus Compact for Student Veterans. The compact aims to improve on-campus services for veteran students. Participating institutions pledge to designate an office or staff person as a ‘go-to’ for all student veterans to help them navigate everything from GI Bill paperwork to behavioral health counseling. At CSM, this position has been available since fall 2008.

            “Our student body has one of the highest percentages of veterans in the state,” said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried. “We value their service and work closely with them to ensure that they are getting the service they need to be successful.”

            At the beginning of the spring 2011 semester, CSM provided veteran certification for 456 students, according to CSM Veterans Affairs Coordinator Christine Deen. For the 2010-11 academic year to date more than 600 students have received veteran certification status at CSM.

            Among those students are Vicente Chavarria of La Plata who served as a Marine for six years and was discharged with a disability, as well as Madison Gardner of Hollywood who served in the U.S. Navy.

            “Following the Marines I wasn’t getting the job I wanted. I knew I needed to get a degree,” said Chavarria who enrolled in CSM in January 2010 to begin his pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Chavarria said that the process of applying for and using his GI benefits has been easy for him through CSM’s Online Services. “I go onto Veterans Services on the CSM web site to file for my benefits,” said Chavarria. “All paperwork and registration is done electronically, which makes everything easier.” Now experienced in the benefits process, Chavarria is a work-study student helping CSM advise and process paperwork for other student veterans.

Gardner enrolled at CSM in September 2009, using her GI benefits to pay for tuition. After four years of service in the Navy, Gardner decided to transition out of the military to pursue an early childhood education degree. “I wouldn’t be a student right now,” Gardner said, without CSM’s student support services team that assisted her in obtaining Post-911 GI benefits certification, enrolling at CSM and registering for classes. “Through CSM’s Online Services, I was able track each step in the process. It was a huge help.”

            Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to serve a tour of duty in Iraq, convened a signing ceremony in Annapolis Jan. 31 to bring together veteran advocates and higher education leaders including CSM’s President, to forge the important partnerships that will ease student veterans’ transition to campus life.

            “Veterans bring a unique maturity and life experience to the classroom–an experience that in most cases enhances classroom discussions and benefits every student’s learning. But as each war is different, so is every generation of veteran,” said Brown in his opening remarks. “We have an obligation to serve those who served and we must do more to ease student veterans’ transitions from combat to campus.”

            The Compact calls on Maryland’s higher education community to do more for the men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces and seeks to ensure the educational success of veterans who choose to return to a Maryland school, through greater awareness and understanding of the unique challenges student veterans face.

            The Compact also requires campus officials to provide training for faculty, staff and student leadership to promote greater awareness of veteran issues; and it encourages campuses to create student veteran organizations to provide incoming veteran students with necessary support from their peers who are also transitioning back into our communities.

            More than 22,000 Iraq-Afghanistan veterans and more than 15,000 Maryland veterans received GI Bill education benefits during the fall 2010 semester.

            For information on CSM services available to student veterans, visit