At its annual national con­fer­ence last weekend, the Stu­dent Vet­erans of America rec­og­nized Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion as its top chapter in the United States. The pres­ti­gious honor exem­pli­fied the group’s excel­lent ser­vice on behalf of col­lege stu­dents who have served in the nation’s armed services.

SVO edged out 700 other uni­ver­sity stu­dent vet­erans pro­grams to cap­ture the honor at the con­fer­ence, which was held Jan. 3–6 in Orlando, Fla. The North­eastern chapter was cred­ited for the strength of its uni­ver­sity ser­vices and pro­gram­ming and its broader efforts to help stu­dent vet­erans across the nation.

Michael Trudeau, a senior polit­ical sci­ence major, is pres­i­dent of the Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Organization.

It was the result of a lot of hard work and ded­i­ca­tion,” said chapter pres­i­dent Michael Trudeau, a Navy vet­eran and fifth-​​year polit­ical sci­ence major. “It means we’re not only leaders within the North­eastern com­mu­nity, but leaders in the country as well.”

The orga­ni­za­tion, which recently moved into a new space at 124 Forsyth, pro­vides career ser­vices, advo­cacy, sup­port, and spe­cial pro­gram­ming for the university’s vet­eran com­mu­nity. In par­tic­ular, it serves 141 stu­dent vet­erans whose edu­ca­tion is funded through the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram. The pro­gram, which oper­ates in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Vet­erans Affairs, pro­vides free tuition to vet­erans who have served in the post-​​9/​11 era. In 2009, North­eastern pledged $2 mil­lion to help vet­erans earn a col­lege edu­ca­tion through the pro­gram, which offers stu­dents access to a full range of degree pro­grams, including bachelor’s, master’s, doc­toral, and law degrees.

Trudeau noted that stu­dent vet­erans enter col­lege with vastly dif­ferent expe­ri­ences from the average stu­dent; as such, they often have unique needs that aren’t always addressed through tra­di­tional col­lege pro­grams and ser­vices. At North­eastern, SVO and other out­reach efforts including a ded­i­cated vet­erans liaison have helped make the uni­ver­sity a more wel­coming envi­ron­ment for stu­dents entering the uni­ver­sity after serving in the military.

There’s a big chal­lenge in the over­ar­ching stu­dent vet­erans com­mu­nity because we come in with all these expe­ri­ences and we’re in class with stu­dents who have just fin­ished high school,” Trudeau said. “But there are things SVO can do that imme­di­ately make a dif­fer­ence. We’re having vet­erans talk about their expe­ri­ences before classes, and we’re pro­viding a cen­tral­ized place for vet­erans to go to find the resources they need.”

Adam Beatty, a his­tory and finance major, is vice pres­i­dent of the Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Organization.

Northeastern’s orga­ni­za­tion for stu­dent vet­erans is an influ­en­tial chapter at the state and national level. Trudeau, for example, serves on Mass­a­chu­setts’ Stu­dent Advi­sory Council, which advises state offi­cials on edu­ca­tion policy and stu­dent rights. Adam Beatty, the organization’s vice pres­i­dent and a Marine who has com­pleted two tours of duty in Iraq, was appointed to the SVA Stu­dent Council, which pro­vides advice on the organization’s national initiatives.

At the con­fer­ence, North­eastern joined stu­dent chap­ters from Forsyth Tech­nical Com­mu­nity Col­lege, Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity, and Uni­ver­sity of South Florida as the four final­ists for nation’s top chapter acco­lade. Toward the end of the con­fer­ence, mem­bers from all four pre­sented their mis­sions, activ­i­ties, and long-​​term plans before a dis­tin­guished panel that included rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Bob Woodruff Foun­da­tion, Bank of America, Pru­den­tial, GMAC, and Google. The groups received useful feed­back from the panel, and their pre­sen­ta­tions played a factor in the selec­tion of best chapter in the nation.

The con­fer­ence also included talks by high-​​profile mil­i­tary fig­ures, including Vet­erans Affairs Sec­re­tary Eric K. Shin­seki and Gen. George W. Case Jr., who served as Army Chief of Staff from 2007 through 2011.

In the coming year, SVO plans to con­tinue improving career ser­vices pro­grams for vet­erans and working with the uni­ver­sity to help vet­erans find jobs after graduation.

Our mis­sion is to tran­si­tion stu­dents from mil­i­tary life to being suc­cessful col­leges stu­dents,” Trudeau said. “The way we see it, you can’t be a suc­cessful col­lege stu­dent until you’ve trans­lated that into a great career.”