RMU committed to veterans
With new services and technology, Robert Morris University is expanding its commitment to active military members and veterans.
This year, RMU has seen an increase in veterans. Dr. Daniel Rota, director of veteran’s education and training services, stated that last spring 184 veterans were enrolled and 32 graduated. Now, Rota estimated that the number of veterans is at approximately 200 students.
Since acquiring a $695,000 state grant with the help of Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Mustio, Senior Associate Provost of Academic Operations and Professor of Education Dr. Lawrence Tomei explained that the money has been used to create a model for supporting military veterans at RMU.
Thus far, support has come in the form of the Veterans Education and Training Services (VETS) Center located in the lower level of Jefferson Center as well as hiring counselors and purchasing integrated technology, which includes iPads for every veteran and a new video conferencing system.
According to Director of the IML Doctoral Program and Professor of Education George Semich, the video conferencing system consists of two Macintosh laptops and a tracking camera. This system has been used for the first time this semester to create a virtual classroom for Dereck Rogers, an active military member who was recently transferred to State College, creating a three hour drive for him to RMU.
Like many active military members still in school, Rogers explained the difficulties of being an active military member while still completing his studies.
“It’s a lot of trial and error and a lot of long nights,” explained Rogers. “But getting my Ph.D. has been a personal goal for a very long time.”
Now in his second year of a three-year doctoral program, this virtual classroom makes Rogers’ goal more accessible.
When he is unable to physically attend his Tuesday evening Instructional Leadership and Program Planning class with Part-Time Secondary Education and Graduate Studies Professor Dr. Lawrence Kushner, he will use the video conferencing system, creating a realistic virtual environment, which allows him to interact with the professor and other students in real time.
“We’re able to bring this to a real experience for him, and to keep him in the program. Other than that we would lose him,” stated Semich.
“What we’re doing with the veterans program is kind of proving a concept, if you will. Does this work? Can students who are unable to be physically present on the Robert Morris campus participate in courses at a distance?” Tomei added. “And based on what happened last Tuesday night and the feedback I got from Dereck Rogers, he was thrilled with it.”
Since learning that he will be deployed this summer, Rogers has been working with others in the program.
“This summer is the first time since I began the Ph.D. program that I will be deployed,” said Rogers. “It’s a normal scenario that some active military members find ourselves in, but careful planning and communication with people in the program is the most important thing to do.”
Rogers stated that through the help of the university, the process is easier than it may have been at another school.
“No other university has been so friendly,” he declared. “There is a pro-military attitude from staff and students. The university recognizes what veterans have to offer.”