North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hosted Stu­dent Vet­eran Appre­ci­a­tion Day on Sat­urday, a day­long sym­po­sium fea­turing a series of dis­cus­sions, work­shops, and net­working oppor­tu­ni­ties for the young ser­vice men and women.

Stu­dents, state offi­cials, and vet­erans’ ser­vices rep­re­sen­ta­tives attended the event, which was held in the Curry Stu­dent Center and orga­nized by Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion. The event took place only a few days before the Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board is expected to release a report rec­om­mending how Mass­a­chu­setts can con­tinue sup­porting vet­erans’ edu­ca­tion. The seven-​​member board was estab­lished last year and com­mis­sioned by the Governor’s Advi­sory Council on Vet­erans Ser­vices and the state Depart­ment of Vet­erans’ Ser­vices to explore the expe­ri­ences of stu­dent vet­erans in Mass­a­chu­setts through lis­tening tours and focus groups.

Erik DeGiorgi, chair of the Massachusetts Student Veteran Advisory Board, speaks during the Student Veterans Appreciation Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

Erik DeGiorgi, chair of the Mass­a­chu­setts Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board, speaks during Stu­dent Vet­erans Appre­ci­a­tion Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

At the symposium’s opening cer­e­mony, Erik DeGiorgi described the dif­fi­culty of adjusting to civilian life after combat duty in Afghanistan. DeGiorgi, a Marine Corps vet­eran and the advi­sory board’s chairman, noted that col­lege has inspired him to suc­ceed, saying, “It wasn’t until I stepped into a class­room that I dis­cov­ered who I was and what I was capable of.”

DeGiorgi urged stu­dent vet­erans to take advan­tage of their edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­ni­ties though finan­cial ben­e­fits such as the Post-​​9/​11 GI Bill. “It’s our respon­si­bility to use this gift from our society to become the next gen­er­a­tion of leaders within it,” he said.

The opening cer­e­mony also fea­tured remarks from Coleman Nee, sec­re­tary of the Mass­a­chu­setts Depart­ment of Vet­erans’ Ser­vices; John W. Polanowicz, sec­re­tary of the Mass­a­chu­setts Exec­u­tive Office of Health and Human Ser­vices; Col. Francis Magurn, chief of the joint staff, Mass­a­chu­setts Army National Guard; and Michael Trudeau, a recent North­eastern grad­uate and the pres­i­dent of the SVO. Trudeau also serves as a Stu­dent Vet­eran Advi­sory Board member.

Michael Trudeau, outgoing president of the Northeastern's Student Veterans Organization, speaks during the Student Veterans Appreciation Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

Michael Trudeau, pres­i­dent of the Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion, speaks during Stu­dent Vet­erans Appre­ci­a­tion Day. Photo by Scott Eisen.

State offi­cials hailed the efforts of the board, which they said exem­pli­fies Mass­a­chu­setts’ national lead­er­ship in pro­viding sup­port and resources to stu­dent veterans.

Work­shops and breakout ses­sions held throughout the day focused on a range of topics, from building a stu­dent vet­erans orga­ni­za­tion to under­standing state and fed­eral ben­e­fits for stu­dent vet­erans. An exhi­bi­tion hall also paired prospec­tive and cur­rent stu­dent vet­erans with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from public and pri­vate ser­vice providers and col­leges and universities.

In Jan­uary, the Stu­dent Vet­erans of America rec­og­nized Northeastern’s Stu­dent Vet­erans Orga­ni­za­tion as its top chapter in the United States. The SVO offers career ser­vices, advo­cacy, and other pro­gram­ming to stu­dent vet­erans, many of whom par­tic­i­pated in a nine-​​kilometer fundraising run ear­lier this month in sup­port of the Red Sox Foun­da­tion and Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital Home Base Program.

North­eastern, for its part, has devel­oped a strong com­mit­ment to edu­cating stu­dent vet­erans through the fed­eral government’s Yellow Ribbon Pro­gram, which cur­rently pro­vides free tuition to more than 130 vet­erans who have served in the post-​​9/​11 era. In 2009, the uni­ver­sity pledged $2 mil­lion to help vet­erans earn a col­lege edu­ca­tion through the pro­gram, which offers stu­dents access to bachelor’s, master’s, doc­toral, and law degrees.