When veteran Joe Leroux transitioned from military to civilian life, he found a position as an operations manager with an oil and energy manufacturer. It was a good job that allowed him to leverage his military leadership experience. Still, he wanted more formal education to bolster his academic background and business knowledge—necessary for a thriving civilian career. He wanted to find a degree program with course formats that could accommodate his intense work schedule and a school that understood the needs of military-affiliated students with comprehensive knowledge of military benefits usage.
“There are a lot of schools out there that just don’t have an understanding of the different benefits available to students through Veterans Affairs (VA). I really wanted to find a school that was more knowledgeable than I am in terms of what my benefits were and how to maximize usage of those benefits,” reflected Joe.
Joe learned about the Helen Diller Center for Veterans of U.S. Military Service at Golden Gate University, supported by a $2 million dollar grant from the Helen Diller Family Foundation, that aims to provide comprehensive support to military-affiliated students with a focus on academic, social, and career success. As a former battalion career counselor, Joe had helped countless service members and their families navigate benefit usage and the college enrollment process. He had never encountered a school with the comprehensive services that the Diller Center offered. He felt that a school that made that kind of investment would be supportive of his needs and decided that GGU was the right fit.
“What I like about the Diller Center is that they connect the military student with military-specific mental health resources, and they hold events pertaining to networking and job seeking during the weeks that we are on campus that are specific to military-students. There’s just a wide variety of services that are offered that you don’t typically see at most universities,” said Joe.
From the start, Joe was impressed with the Diller Center staff’ expertise in VA benefits, and the range of support services they provided to him as a new student.
“It was very supportive and welcoming as a prospective student. I knew then that GGU was serious about partnering with the military community.”
What surprised Joe about the assistance he received from Diller Center staff who speak the military language was the enormous difference it made in his stress levels.
“I tend to be very detail oriented, and I overly stress about every one of those details involved with my VA benefits,” said Joe. “It’s been really nice that GGU works with the Diller Center and is in tune with why I am the way I am. I know they will take care of me so I can focus more on my student experience rather than trying to manage my benefits. The difference in my stress levels is staggering. I can relax and just be a student. It really is so impactful to have access to staff that understand the military community you come from.”
The support Joe received and the hard work he put into his degree program paid off. Joe earned his BA in Management in 2023 and served as the undergraduate student speaker at Golden Gate University’s 2023 Undergraduate and Graduate Commencement Ceremony.
“I previously tried to return to school at two other universities, but it just didn’t work out,” said Joe in his remarks delivered at Commencement. “When I considered stepping up to the plate and taking another swing at it, I wondered if it was a realistic possibility. I thought I was too old to try school again. As a veteran, I was able to connect with the Helen Diller Center, and they offered me critical support and guidance. I found that age or any other difference was not going to be a concern or an excuse as GGU provided me and all of us with a welcoming and inclusive learning environment. I know that accomplishing this goal will serve as an example to my adult children that it’s never too late to take a swing at something new and worthwhile and to let nothing stand in your way.”