PeppVet Council hosts “Letters to Veterans” event Nov. 9, where students had the opportunity to write letters to veterans on Pepperdine’s campus. Veterans Week consisted of activities to honor Pepperdine military-connected students. Photo courtesy of Samantha Jones
The average Pepperdine undergraduate student pursues a degree immediately after high school, and many graduate students likewise pursue advanced degrees soon after receiving their bachelor’s — but not every student takes this traditional route.
Pepperdine students who serve in the armed forces or who served prior to attending Pepperdine are on a unique educational path.
In honor of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, Pepperdine’s Veterans Week consisted of seven days of activities and events for military-connected students.
“Pepperdine is great if you’re applying as a veteran, and my whole process was really easy,” said senior and veteran Jonathan Velarde. “Pepperdine is smaller than USC or UCLA, so it’s a little less intimidating if you’re new to the college scene.”
The list of best colleges for veterans in the U.S., ranks Pepperdine as No. 23, according to the U.S. News and World Report. The University also offers the Yellow Ribbon Program, which assists in paying the cost of tuition for eligible military-connected students. Pepperdine’s University Holiday Schedule, however, does not recognize Veterans Day as a holiday.
Veteran and Director of Student Veteran Affairs Eric Leshinsky oversees the Pepperdine Veterans Council.
“Our veterans are lured here because of our tradition of taking care of veterans, strengthening their opportunity for a sense of belonging and to prepare themselves for civilian professional life,” Leshinsky said.
Velarde served in the Marine Corps from 2013 to 2018, he said. At 23, Velarde began his undergraduate career studying Business at Pepperdine. For Velarde, Veterans Day symbolizes gratitude, he said.
“Veterans Day is a good day for everyone to be thankful and appreciative — it’s a time to reflect and be thankful,” Velarde said. “As veterans, we have a really different lifestyle, so it would be cool for students to get to know some of us and ask questions.”
Veteran and Seaver student Samantha Jones serves on the PeppVet Council and is a candidate for Pepperdine’s combined Juris Doctor/MBA program, she said. Jones said she appreciates how much her professors care to see her succeed.
“The professors are so incredibly supportive in undergrad and graduate school — they value my military experience and what I can contribute to the classroom and other students,” Jones said.
During Veterans Week, Jones said she participated in the “Letters to Veterans” table Nov 9. At the event, students, faculty and staff wrote thank-you notes to Pepperdine’s student veterans.
“I was so happy at the number of students who stopped by — it just made us feel so valued,” Jones said. “The student body participating in Veterans Week really helps us feel apart of the community.”
Other Veterans Week events included a lunch with President Jim Gash, a distinguished lecture with retired Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas Jr., a two-mile run, yoga and other activities for the student veterans.
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