CSU Monterey Bay has joined a growing number of colleges and universities nationwide that have established a Student Veteran Organization.

Rosalba Beltran“Given the strong military and veterans presence in the area, we decided the campus needed a group for student veterans,” said Rosalba Beltran, a senior kinesiology major and Navy veteran (pictured at left).

At the start of the school year, Beltran and several other former military members came together to get the new SVO off the ground. The organization became an official campus club in September with the election of officers. Beltran was elected vice president.

The SVO provides a communications and social network for veterans on campus. Making connections with fellow veterans helps them get the support and encouragement they need.

According to Beltran, a student veteran is not an average student.

“We see the world differently. We think differently and we approach situations differently. Having an organization for veterans on campus can help facilitate the transition between military and academic worlds,” she said.

Beltran grew up in the Salinas Valley town of Soledad and graduated from Gonzales High School. She joined the Navy several years later and served six years, all at stateside installations.

She earned an associate’s degree at Hartnell College, and then transferred to CSUMB to pursue a degree in kinesiology with concentrations in exercise science and human movement.

“My goal is to become a physical therapist,” she said. “I hope to work with and help veterans.”

The number of veterans enrolling in college is increasing: Approximately 800,000 returned veterans used GI Bill benefits last year, up 40 percent from 2009, according to USA Today.

Sean Collins of G.I. Jobs magazine, which surveys 7,000 universities annually to compile a "military friendly schools" list, says of the 250,000-400,000 veterans who are now separating from the military annually, 25 percent will be in college within two years.

The magazine recently named CSUMB one of those “military-friendly school.” The list honors the top 20 percent of colleges and universities that are doing the most to embrace America’s military members and veterans as students.

Among CSUMB’s military-friendly practices are web pages with information specifically for veterans and a designated veterans services liaison and campus support team to help veterans make the transition from active duty service to successful educational pursuits.

This semester, 64 students are receiving educational benefits from the Veterans Administration (GI Bill) to support their educational goals; 54 of them are receiving the new Post 9/11 GI Bill benefit, which helps pay tuition/fee costs as well as offering a monthly housing stipend and a book allowance during the semester.

Information about resources for veterans at CSUMB is available here