Supporting Veterans: A Q&A with Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services James Kelley

As we recognize service members this Veteran’s Day and honor their contributions and legacies, Champlain College is especially thankful for a community member whose service continues on campus.

Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services James Kelley is responsible in part for Champlain’s unique support for veterans, which recently ranked #19 on U.S. News & World Report “Best College for Veterans” list. He is a dedicated full-time staff member for veteran students to connect with regarding veteran resources, committed to helping students with military service experience excel into new futures through a Champlain education. This Veteran’s Day, we asked Kelley to provide his insight on ways we can thank our veterans and what makes Champlain a veteran-friendly college.

Assistant Director of Military and Veteran Services James Kelley at Champlain College’s Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony, November 2022.

Q: Today, we say “thank you” to those who have served. But beyond these 24 hours, what are other resources, organizations, or pieces of content you’d recommend civilians meaningfully engage with to acknowledge and celebrate service members’ contributions?

A: Thank a vet. That simple gesture of saying “thank you” to a service member can go a long way. It lets them know that they matter and that their service matters. Even as a service member myself, I always make it a point to say thank you when I see a veteran in public. 

For those looking to get directly involved and volunteer, there are hundreds of national organizations whose sole purpose is to support service members and veterans. Two local organizations that I have personally worked with that are always looking for volunteers are Josh’s House in Colchester and The Veterans’ Place in Northfield. Josh’s House is a hangout spot for veterans — think of it as a modern V.F.W or American Legion — specifically designed for our younger veterans. This is a place to relax, get a hot meal, and share experiences and stories with other younger vets. The Veterans’ Place in Northfield is a transitional housing non-profit designed to help those struggling vets get back on their feet and provide assistance in finding a job and steady housing, which can be especially challenging in Vermont. Both of these organizations do great work and really help those who have given so much to this great nation.

Q: Recently, Champlain College was ranked one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report. In your opinion, what makes the college a veteran-friendly school?

A: There are a lot of factors that make Champlain a veteran-friendly college. I feel that it is a total school effort, from the support of the professors and the dedicated support staff, including career and counseling services, to the sense of belonging and acceptance from other students that have a knack for being accepting of people from all backgrounds. Even something as simple as having a flag pole and plaque dedicated to Champlain College veterans is something that I know helps instill a sense of pride within the veteran community. 

A plaque on Champlain’s campus honoring the veterans of the Champlain College community. Photo taken at Champlain’s Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony, 2021.

Q: What kinds of resources does the Veteran Service Office at Champlain College provide and to whom? How can eligible students take advantage of those resources?

A: The Veteran and Military Services Office, located in the financial aid office, provides support for military and veteran students and their families. One of our primary focuses is to make sure that students using educational benefits from the VA to pay for their education get the funding they are entitled to. We also support our eligible students by informing them of other resources that are available to them, such as counseling services, financial planning, and health benefits. If any eligible student would like assistance with getting these services, my door is always open, and I’m just a phone call or email away. So many veterans and military members don’t know all the benefits that they are entitled to, and I want to help them be the most successful versions of themselves. 

Veteran alumni Jason Ehlers received both his undergraduate and Master’s degrees from Champlain and is a current adjunct faculty member in the Champlain College Online Cybersecurity program. “The Veterans Office walked me through everything related to my GI benefits and that support was huge,” he said at the November 2022 ceremony.

Thank you to all military service members and veterans, including those within our Champlain community. We appreciate you for your service.

Hear more about how Champlain College supports more than 400 veteran students in its online and on-campus programs in this WCAX story and visit our website for more information on Champlain’s benefits for military service members and veterans.

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