FAU recognized as ‘Military Friendly’ and ‘Best for Vets’

The university received multiple recognitions for their services to the military community.


Courtesy of Veteran Owls Club

Keyon McDavis (right), Ednique Davis (middle), and Lenine Dolidor (left)

Ma. Emilia Santander, Copy Desk Chief

FAU has available several services and programs for the success of military students, from assistance with class schedules to making a resume. Thanks to this, the military community has taken notice.

Military Friendly, the military ratings division of VIQTORY, recognized FAU as a Military Friendly school for the 11th consecutive year. According to the website, the recognition functions as a standard to measure the ability to create opportunities for the military community. 

Military Times, a publication for the military community, also nominated the university for “Best for Vets: colleges.” This is another recognition the university received for the past several years. 

According to both Military Friendly and Military Times, FAU satisfies the criteria into the rankings because of the university’s success metrics, career support, resources, financial assistance and policies. 

Military and Veterans Student Success Center

The Military and Veterans Student Success Center (MVSSC) is located in the Student Union, and provides students from the military community the tools to thrive at the university. 

Gabriel Donald, an army veteran and director of the center, believes students struggle the most with “trying to adapt from the system.”

According to Lenine Dolidor, a marine veteran majoring in exercise science, interaction with civilians can be a struggle.

“People are sensitive. We are really aggressive [in] the way we talk, we curse a lot. Well, I curse a lot, and you can’t do that. Being out here, you have to really censor what you say because people get hurt,” Dolidor said. “People that are not in the same mindset as you because you are in the military, and a lot of things don’t bother me. I’ve been through not showering for a couple of days.” 

Keyon McDavis, an army veteran majoring in interdisciplinary studies, shares Dolidor’s struggle. 

“The things you say, how you communicate, [and] your body language when you are talking with someone,” McDavis said. “We have this thing in the military where we automatically think, in civilian life you may talk to a person and then they may get offended by the smallest thing that you say and you just gotta know when to turn it off, when to turn it on, because I’m a very nonchalant person. But I’m also a people’s person when I need to be.”

Through its website, students can apply for their Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits and find out about important updates, upcoming events, and ways to get involved in the community. 

The Study-Work program is another VA benefit where students can receive additional allowance and work by assisting other students with services and benefits. 

Ednique Davis, a dependent majoring in health science, is enrolled in this program and enjoys it immensely. A dependent is a benefit-eligible relative of a veteran, like a spouse or child.

“You learn about different veterans and different people, they have some good stories. I ain’t gonna lie, I get really invested like I was there,” said Davis.

Additionally, the center offers the Side-by-Side program to assist students professionally. Students learn how to establish career goals, write a resume, attend networking events, practice job interviews, build a LinkedIn profile, and attend networking events and job fairs. 

Davis believes the Side-by-Side program benefits veterans by allowing them to develop professionally and think for themselves, instead of “thinking on a military side.”

Logo of the Veteran Owls Club. (Courtesy of Veteran Owls Club)

Veteran Owls Club

The Veteran Owls club is a student-run club that promotes community involvement and helps veterans adapt to civilian life.

Since Spring 2010, the club has been working along with the center to provide support and assistance to veterans and dependent students transitioning into the academic community.

Its current executive board is composed of McDavis as president, Davis as vice president and Dolidor as social media and finance manager. 

“We [try] to participate in many community events and things that normally come up around Veterans Day, like painting the veteran’s house or something like that,” said McDavis. “Or volunteering in any kind of way that we possibly can just to get us all together and fellowship with all the veterans, dependents and active students and stuff like that.”

Students interested in getting involved with the military community, independently of their relation to it, are encouraged to join Veteran Owls. 

Rebecca Pasko, founder and trainer, with Simba, a rescue dog, after a training session. (Courtesy of Happy with Dogs)


Veteran Owls and the MVSSC also work with other organizations around campus to enhance students’ experience.

Their most recent collaboration is with the Canines Providing Assistance to Wounded Warriors’ (C-P.A.W.W.), FAU Veteran Canine Rescue Mission (VCRM).

C-P.A.W.W. is a health research initiative located in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing that looks into the health improvement of veterans through canine assistance.

Its newest initiative partners veterans with rescue dogs as companion or service animals. It also partners with the Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC), an organization that looks to improve the lives of animals by advocating for adoption, education and community services.

“Many dogs in the shelter need homes and I know that there are veterans that are very interested in having a dog as part of their life. It can make a beautiful synergy,” said Cheryl Krause-Parello, director of C-P.A.W.W. and associate dean for Nursing Research and Scholarship. 

Additionally, the initiative works along with Happy With Dogs, a training boarding daycare for dogs, to acclimate the dogs to life with the veteran and receive training based on the veteran’s need. 

When looking for trainers, Krause-Parello believed a veteran was the best fit for the mission because of the connection people in the military community share. 

Rebecca Pasko, founder and trainer of Happy With Dogs, is also a Marine Corps veteran. To her, all armed forces personnel become brothers and sisters to one another.

“We can communicate and understand each other in a way not known to anyone other than Veterans,” Pasko said. “I know the struggles and isolation you can feel as a veteran, and this allows me to communicate with and help guide other veterans that may be going through something similar.”

Pasko knows the quality of life of veterans improves by pairing them with dogs because they have unconditional love and may become service animals. The bonus is rescuing dogs from the HSBC. 

The initiative is currently in its pilot year and donations from the Phil and Susan Smith Family Foundation, Susan A. Smith, and the Phil Smith Automotive Group cover for adoption fees, dog care, boarding and administrative staff, according to FAU Foundation’s Director of Development Alyson Warner.

Dolidor was one of the first participants on the mission and was partnered with Lena, an American bulldog.

“It was good. The trainer, [Pasko] is also a veteran, she was a marine officer. We bonded on the first day that we met. So it was like once a week we’ll come together and then we’ll just train my dog, so good,” said Dolidor.

To apply for the program, veterans only need to contact the C-P.A.W.W. through email or phone. 

These recognitions are not the peak of FAU’s standards, but a landmark to keep improving and assisting a part of the community.

Dolidor advises the FAU community to be more understanding of people’s diverse backgrounds and communicate when something is perceived as offensive. 

McDavis believes “leading by example” is key to improving community involvement.

“When you show someone that you are a natural leader, and you’re out and you’re participating, then you congregating with them, that gravitates people towards you, then they want to know you,” McDavis said. “Especially with ROTC, they’re going in and we’re veterans, so it’s more like a mentorship. So we’ll talk to them like ‘Hey, what you want to know? I can’t tell you exactly what’s gonna happen, but I can tell you what I’ve been through and I can tell you things to look out for.’ So it’s pretty much like a partnership.”

Ma. Emilia Santander is the Copy Desk Chief at the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, you can reach her on Instagram @emilias_ed or email her at [email protected].