Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
American Council on Education (ACE) Conference
Plenary Session: “From Combat to Classroom”
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Grand Hyatt Hotel
San Diego CA

Thank you, Judy (Genshaft).

It is outstanding to be on a panel with so many people committed to the same outcome: getting our veterans into college, getting them graduated and then into the workforce.

That is what I would call success.

Before I make remarks about our Troops to College initiative, let me introduce some distinguished guests in the audience.

First is a Flag Officer:

Mike Lehnert, Commanding General, Marine Corps Installations West. He has dedicated his Deputy Commander, Colonel Patrick “Paddy” Gough, as the co-chair of our working group.

All of our military contacts have been incredibly supportive of the initiative and we could not have gotten this far without them. Thank you all.

Next is Kent Valley, Senior Vice President of Majestic Realty Co.

Kent was the driving force behind the $100,000 gift from the “Land of the Free Foundation” that was given to the CSU Foundation in support of ACE’s Severely Injured program at Balboa Naval Hospital San Diego. Thank you, Kent.

Let me now proudly introduce four of our student-veterans.

They are here to help us.

I have asked them to be available to meet with you at the end of this session to explain some of the hurdles they have had getting access to a college degree. They can also talk about their successes.

We need to carefully listen to them as we design our campus programs. They are my speech for today – ask them lot of questions.

They are:

  1. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Nick Popaditch, 40
    • Lost an eye when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his tank in Iraq
    • Worked with California First Lady Maria Shriver on Semper Fi Fund
    • Governor helped him and we helped him get into SDSU
    • Went to San Diego State
    • Now in the “Wounded Marines Career Foundation” program here in San Diego to learn new skills in media, filmmaking and photojournalism
    • Will return to SDSU this summer after the training program is completed

  2. Nathaniel Donnelly, 30, senior at SDSU
    • Major is international security and conflict resolution (wants eventually to be in the US Senate or House)
    • Served in Marine Corps 1995-2003; left as a Sergeant
    • President of SDSU’s Student Veteran Organization
    • Full-time student with a full-time job

  3. Melissa West, 27, senior at SDSU
    • Served in the Navy on the USS Peleliu, 1999-2004, as a Secure Network Administrator
    • Worked on “secret/confidential” messages that she can’t talk about
    • In Iraq and Afghanistan. Her ship was the first to respond to the 9/11 attacks
    • Double major: communications and political science. Is thinking of getting a master’s degree or law degree after she gets her B.A.
    • Says the Troops to College program “brings her a sense of hope” and that even if it will be more fully in place when she graduates from SDSU, she says it will “pave the way for other veterans to go to school and make it in civilian life”

  4. Ivo Moreno, 33, senior at SDSU
    • Served in the Air Force, 1992-2000
    • Major is art with an emphasis on multi-media
    • Can’t talk at all about what he did – very secret
    • About the Troops to College program, he said, “it’s about time.”
    • Called it an “awesome program” that will help veterans because things often get overlooked when they get out, so this will provide direction to get them into college.

Also let me introduce Retired Colonel Bucky Peterson, USMC.

  • Special Assistant to me and Chairman of our Troops to College Working Group
  • Former vice president for development at our Sonoma State campus
  • He is the real spark behind our success.

Also in the audience is San Diego State President Steve Weber who has been instrumental in working with our veterans in this region and helping get these students into SDSU. He has also worked with us on the programs at Balboa Hospital and the Miramar Air Base.

Bucky, Steve and others at the CSU are the reasons why we know we are beginning to make a difference in our veterans’ lives.

The CSU has taken the lead on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Troops to College program, which was announced in March 2006.

  • He wants to make California the friendliest state for veterans
  • You can see what the CSU has done in the brochures that are on your seats and at the back tables
  • We have Veterans’ service representatives at every one of our campuses

But before I give you more specifics, let me share a short story from our Board of Trustees meeting last month:

  • We made a presentation to our trustees about our Troops to College initiative
  • Joey Francis, an African-American male student and president of the Associated Students at Cal State LA, spoke
  • Thanked the CSU for this program
  • Said if a program like this had been around after he got out of the Marines, he probably would have had his degree sooner.
  • You saw a lot of heads nodding when everyone heard him say that

That is what makes us work so hard on this program. It is the right thing for us to do.

And the Governor really likes it that the California State University has taken the lead.

Camp Pendleton:

About six months ago, Bucky and I went with all 23 presidents and a few other people and spent a day and a half at Camp Pendleton.

It was “Gut Check Time.”

Spent the evening with the “wounded warriors” and admitted several of them on the spot to our campuses.

What is important to us is that these veterans look like our CSU students – they are African-American, Latino, Asian, and white; they are older and many have families. All 23 of our campuses have this focus on these students.

Balboa Naval Hospital:

We have established the “Severely Injured” program at Balboa and Camp Pendleton in partnership with ACE and modeled after Jim Wright’s “wounded warriors” program at Dartmouth.

I want to congratulate Jim on conceiving of that program – it is a good one and we are pleased to follow his example.

Now that he is retiring from Dartmouth and dedicating himself to this program, I know he will really make a difference to the men and women wounded in service to their country. As a former Marine, Jim knows that this kind of college counseling program is sorely needed. Thank you, Jim.

What else the CSU is doing:

  1. The Troops to College program with assistance from outside support will secure a bus that will be “wrapped” on the outside with our messages to veterans. We will travel up and down California to about 30 military bases talking to the troops about going to college. We will be a “rolling outreach” vehicle loaded with all the technology so that we can answer questions from active duty personnel and veterans.

  2. Testifying before Veterans Affairs Committees on what these veterans need

  3. Established a website that links to all our campus sites and our online admissions application form

  4. Reviewing credit transferability processes and criteria with an eye toward providing some advantages to veterans – high priority.

  5. Developing partnerships with military bases and college campuses.

  6. Supported State Legislation
    • AB 272 – Runner - priority enrollment for veterans (CSU & CCC)
    • AB 950 – Out-of-state fee waiver graduate work by active duty

  7. Identified best practices among campuses and bases that can be implemented at all campuses & bases. For example:
    • Transition programs (Boots to Books)
    • Veterans Affairs Specialists & Student Veteran Organizations
    • Regional Partnership Development
    • On-Base campus advisors

In Summary:

This is a call to action for all of us to do better for our veterans.

I encourage you to go back to your campuses and see what you already have for these military personnel and veterans. If you do not have enough, then figure out a way to do more.

It is very essential that we all help these men and women transition to college.

We need to work with them on financial aid, credit transfers and their life-learning and leadership experiences. They are part of our future workforce.

We need to respect them for what they have already done, and get them on a career path so they are as productive in the civilian world as they were in the military world.

As I said at the beginning, it is the right thing to do.

And don’t forget to talk to the student-veterans I introduced earlier in these remarks. Thank you.