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UWF OFFICE HELPS VETERANS, ACTIVE-DUTY TROOPS, DEPENDENTS NAVIGATE COLLEGE

 

Technically, it’s the Military and Veterans Resource Center. Practically, though, the offices and study spaces on the second floor of Building 4 at the University of West Florida’s Emerald Coast campus are a haven for active-duty military personnel, veterans and dependents navigating the decisions, paperwork and other challenges of beginning, or continuing, a collegiate career. Even a partial list of the resource center’s services — the cost of which, for participating students, is covered by tuition — is impressive. The office assists with initial inquiries about admission, works with people during the admissions process and registration, helps students navigate tuition assistance programs like the GI Bill, finds tutors and provides a writing lab. Beyond that, the center can reach beyond the campus to find social service and other agencies for students who may need assistance not available on campus. “We try to get them whatever they need,” said Deborah Cluff, longtime coordinator of the Military and Veterans Resource Center at the Emerald Coast campus. “I may be just one in the office, but there’s a wide array of resources for me to reach out to for my students.” And for Cluff, who comes from a military family, “whatever they need” means just that. Working with the MVRC at UWF’s main campus in Pensacola, she takes seriously the center’s stated commitment to provide “concierge-level” services to veterans, active-duty personnel and military dependents, to the point that she just naturally calls them “my students.”As just one example of the level of service Cluff provides to her students, consider the active-duty military student deployed to Afghanistan while at UWF Emerald Coast. “They found out the first week of class that the textbooks did not arrive, and thought they had to drop the class,” she said. “So what we did was make sure that they had email access, and then I worked with the academic department. We copied some of the pages they needed to get through the next assignment or two. We talked with the bookstore to figure out what went wrong (and found out) it was (a problem) with an APO (military mail) address. But we were able to get the textbook to them and not have them drop.” Generally, Cluff said, “If we know that they’re deploying, we will try to work with the instructors to see if there are alternative ways that they can turn in course work.”

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