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EDISON, NJ–The Middlesex County College Board of Trustees officially approved the hiring of Richard Feldman as the new Coordinator of Veterans Services at their February 25 meeting.
Feldman has been on campus since he started February 18, and was hired to replace David Brimmer, who left to work at the Trenton Vet Center.
Feldman served as a personnel officer in the Air Force for 5 years during the Vietnam Era. He has a bachelor’s in Marketing from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Human Resources from Central Michigan University.
After leaving the Air Force, Feldman worked in human resources for several large companies before becoming an assistant dean at the University of Maryland business school.
He then went to work at Warren County College, where he led the new Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness (VIPER) program. The VIPER program lets servicemen and veterans receive transfer up to 45 credits, depending on their military training and experience.
The program was groundbreaking in that in addition to the liberal credit evaluation policies, servicemen and veterans were charged in-county tuition regardless of residency.
As a result of the services, outreach and tuition policy, Feldman had students in Iraq, Afghanistan, bases throughout the world and the US and on campus.
Middlesex hired Feldman in part because they want a similar program like Warren’s VIPER at MCC. Overall, “administration here wants to do more than say ‘thank you,’” Feldman stated.
Supporting veterans in education is personal for Feldman.
Interviewed by Edison Now at his new office in Chambers Hall on the Edison campus, Feldman remarked how, considering how his fellow servicemen were regarded after coming back from Vietnam, he wanted to make sure veterans were treated better than his generation was.
He wants to make sure todays veterans get “more respect than we received.”
Feldman is hitting the ground running at MCC. He already had a laundry list of ideas for programs and services for veterans at the college.
“My role is to expand the outreach to the community so veterans understand what we’re offering here,” said Feldman.
MCC was recently ranked as a top military-friendly school for its programs and services to servicemen and veterans.
“I think Middlesex is a great school for students transitioning from the military,” commented Feldman.
Not satisfied with the status quo, Feldman added that his mission is to “expand what we offer to our vets, to make their transition easier and quicker.”
MCC has had a dedicated veterans’ center since December 2011, funded by a grant from the Willard T.C. Johnson Foundation – which was renewed in 2014.
In addition to Feldman, the center is staffed by work-study student veterans and a full-time Veterans Affairs Assistant, Paul Lazaro.
Lazaro is an MCC alumni, graduating in 2011 with dual degrees in Journalism and Communications, and a Sergeant in the Army National Guard who served 2 tours of duty and received a Purple Heart.
A statement from the college said, “The MCC Center coordinates services for student military veterans, acting as a one-stop location to assist with their veteran entitlements and the processing of paperwork. It also offers information on resources and services available to veterans, and is a place where they can socialize with others vets.”
Speaking to Edison Now, Lazaro listed some of the specific services the Center currently offers, including certification of their educational benefits and a single resource referral center for veterans to county, state and federal veterans’ programs and services.
In partnership with Rutgers University, the Center also hosts a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor on campus once a week.
VBA Vocational Rehabilitation, called “VetSuccess” by the VBA, is a program to train disabled veterans in a job that they can do despite their disabilities. Veteran participants have their tuition and books provided, receive tutoring assistance if needed, and receive a small stipend for living expenses.
Pursuant to a 2013 Memorandum of Understanding with Rutgers, the counselor spends one day a week on the Edison campus, meeting with veteran students and prospective veteran students about their eligibility or participation in the program.
The VBA confirmed that Rutgers and MCC are the only schools in the state to have a VetSuccess counselor on campus.
Since the opening of the Center in 2011, veteran student enrollment has increased 39%, Lazaro stated.
“Having this facility here is a tremendous asset for the veteran student,” Feldman told Edison Now. He commented that, in addition to the resources, the Center gives veterans “a place to focus, meet other vets.”
The Center is home to the Veterans and Servicemembers Association, the student organization for veterans and students still serving. It is a chapter of Student Veterans of America, a national non-profit veteran’s organization advocating for student veterans.
MCC has a main campus in Edison, and satellite campuses in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy.