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Edinboro University establishes Veterans Success Center to better assist returning vets in higher education attainment

01/22/2013

Taking its nationally recognized status as a “Military Friendly School” to the next level, Edinboro University has created a Veterans Success Center to better serve returning vets in their transition to civilian life and higher education attainment.

As part of Edinboro’s long-standing commitment to veterans, the University recently appointed a Veterans Success Center Coordinator to further enhance the outreach and support extended to veterans. Edinboro has been named a “Military Friendly School” by GI Jobs magazine the past four years.

“But now we’re taking it to the next level by making Edinboro even more veterans-supportive – that’s what the Veterans Success Center is all about, supporting our returning veterans, ” explained the Center’s new coordinator, Anthony G. “Tony” Canzonieri.

Canzonieri, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq in Military Intelligence, knows firsthand just how difficult transition to civilian life can be without an advocate to help returning veterans adjust, especially those who saw combat. Often they’re dealing with physical, emotional, and financial issues. When veterans seek to take advantage of government sponsored benefits and opportunities available to them, other issues can surface as well.

“Student veterans have unique needs,” Canzonieri explained. “They’ve been out of school for a while and might need remedial help. They’ve also been told what do every day of their adult lives after high school, so now they might need help just getting their lives organized, or perhaps refreshing them on study skills or time management.”

He will serve as their advocate, providing quick advice and taking action on veterans’ behalf with the broader campus, also helping Edinboro’s faculty become more aware of veterans’ needs.

“I have a passion for working with veterans, so this position is ideal and tailor-made for me,” Canzonieri said. At 26, Canzonieri brings vision, drive and a youthful enthusiasm that will resonate with young returning veterans because he can so easily empathize with them.

Situated in the Crawford Center on the west side of campus, the Veterans Success Center gives veterans a space dedicated exclusively for them, a centralized location to get help with their special needs and issues. They can also use the space to lounge, mingle and study with other veterans.

The VSC is part of Edinboro’s Career Development and Adult Student Services Department.

“Our new Veterans Success Center will immediately enhance the ability of current and prospective students to access a variety of University resources that will enable them to have a successful collegiate experience,” said Dr. Jody Gallagher, director the department.

Canzonieri, who was wounded during his service in Iraq, comes from a military family. Growing up in the Pittsburgh area, he earned an AS degree in Business from Westmoreland County Community College, a BS in Science and Technology from California University of Pennsylvania, and will earn his MBA in Finance from Cal U in May. After that, he plans to enroll at Robert Morris University in pursuit of a doctoral degree.

Despite his youth, his experience working with veterans is extensive – and a perfect match for Edinboro. Since being discharged from the Army, he’s worked with Veterans Affairs officials in Pittsburgh, providing peer support and dealing with virtually every issue facing vets in general, those coming back from combat zones in particular. He was instrumental in securing a private agency grant for Vets4Vets, an organization that helps returning veterans with social, physical health and employment issues. At Edinboro, he’ll help establish a veterans group as part of Student Veterans of America, a national organization providing financial scholarship assistance and promoting veteran-friendly legislation.

Canzonieri is committed to retention of student veterans. “We don’t want veterans to just come here. We want them to graduate in four years and leave here with degrees, and also with the smallest amount of student debt possible,” he said.

Military reservists who attend Edinboro are eligible for Federal Tuition Assistance. State tuition help is also available for students serving in the National Guard, while most veterans are eligible for aid through the GI Bill. Canzonieri can help facilitate applications and other often cumbersome governmental paperwork required of vets and military personnel seeking financial aid.

There are about 200 student veterans now on campus, a number expected to grow as more service members are discharged from active duty.
Supporting veterans is not only about what the University can offer them, Canzonieri points out, but equally important is what they offer Edinboro.

“They bring an amazing quality to the classroom. They have life experience, and just their presence and participation enhances the quality of education of the students sitting next to them.”

Edinboro’s ongoing commitment to returning veterans is probably summed up best by Dr. Michael Hannan, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“Edinboro University is strongly committed to providing the best possible education and service to our nation’s veterans,” Hannan said. “Our investment in the Veterans Success Center is our next tangible step toward providing individualized support for these important students.”

The Center is now fully operational. Veterans can contact Canzonieri directly by phoning 814-732-1553, by e-mailing acanzonieri@edinboro.edu, or by logging onto the Veterans Success Center website at veterans.edinboro.edu.

Facts about Veterans

(Source: Estimates from U.S. Census/VA summaries)

  • Number of U.S. military veterans: 21.5 million
  • Number of U.S. Vietnam War-era veterans: 7.5 million
  • Number of Veterans of the Gulf Wars (Aug. 1990-present): 5.1 million
  • Number of Pennsylvania Veterans: Nearly 1 million
  • Number of regional veterans served by Erie Vets Center: 64,000
  • Number of Erie County veterans: 24,000