n a spring day in his office in Dickinson Hall, Luna took several calls in one hour from veterans seeking information and help with their benefits. Luna, who came to FDU in June 2009 from a similar job at New York City College of Technology, has an encyclopedic knowledge of veterans benefits, which range widely depending on length of service and other factors.
An Iraq veteran who served three years in the Army and four in the National Guard, Luna helped lobby for the new GI Bill when he was an outreach coordinator for the Brooklyn College (City University of New York) Veteran Affairs and Counseling Center. At FDU, he is constantly researching benefits to help current and prospective students make decisions about academic programs and financial aid.
Luna’s devotion to helping veterans is praised by University leaders and student veterans alike. But Luna says he is only doing his job. “I just want to help the veterans,” he says. “When I got out [of the military], I didn’t know what the GI Bill was. I’m trying to be more specific and tell the veterans, here are your options so you can make a good decision.”
eterans at FDU range from 19-year-olds fresh from combat to retired career officers. Some are still on active-duty status, and about 30 percent of student veterans are women, Luna says. Of the 170 veterans enrolled in spring 2010, about 100 qualified for and were receiving military tuition benefits.
“They’re an amazingly diverse group — socioeconomically, ethnically and in terms of their interests and passions,” says Scorza, who has taught veterans in his philosophy classes. “They went into the military for different reasons and came out for different reasons. They are smart, capable, dedicated and hard-working students.”
Erica Behnke, an undergraduate psychology major at the College at Florham, spent five years in the Marines, including 10 months in Iraq where she worked alongside infantry units on the front lines, searching Iraqi and Syrian women to make sure they weren’t carrying bombs or IEDs.
When she left the military and returned to New Jersey in 2008, she found a job in human resources. Her job and a longtime interest in psychology piqued her interest in pursuing a degree in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology. When she learned that FDU offered a five-year I/O master’s program, with small classes and free tuition to qualified veterans, that sealed the deal. Behnke started classes in fall 2009, just weeks after the Post-9/11 GI Bill went into effect.
“FDU offers the Yellow Ribbon program, which not all universities provide, and that was great! It really helped financially that I didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket,” Behnke says. “They were very generous with transfer credits and very friendly and helpful during the admissions process.”
Behnke hopes to become an I/O psychologist, training or recruiting employees for companies or public institutions.