She’s on the front lines, improving higher education for veterans

By Kenna Caprio

Martha Papson Garcia, MBA’92 (Ruth), served in the United States Army, and now she’s ready to serve Fairleigh Dickinson University as its new director of veterans services for outreach. She’ll work alongside Jeffrey Dunn, director of veterans services for operations, in the Office of Veterans Services.

Martha Papson Garcia

“I find that there’s no greater honor than to help our veterans transfer their skills from the military to civilian life,” says Garcia.

Back in 2009, an article on the front page of The Star-Ledger newspaper caught her attention, and spurred her to action. “I read that article about Operation College Promise (a nonprofit run through state universities in New Jersey that supports members of the military as they seek an education and transition to civilian life), and immediately knew that was what I wanted to do,” Garcia says.

When she left the military in 1988, after serving as an ordnance officer —maintaining missile systems for the 2nd Infantry Division — in the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea for two years, she found transition support lacking.

Armed with her own experience and the article for inspiration, she’s been working for years toward the very kind of position she holds now at FDU, making phone calls, networking, and eventually, sitting on the Operation College Promise advisory board. “All of my years of hard work paid off, and I’m really happy,” Garcia says.

She even still has the article; it’s in her Metropolitan Campus office now and will make the trek over to the brand-new office space in Dickinson Hall, which opens later this semester. The new suite includes a reception and study area, break/copy room, a “flex” room and an office for Garcia and Dunn.

“More office space will allow us to be better organized and have better communication,” says Garcia. “And in the new resource center, veterans can relax and study, they can team-build and enjoy the camaraderie of other veterans.”

The new office, she says, is just one element of what sets FDU apart from other veteran-friendly universities.

“FDU is one of only four universities in the state of New Jersey that offers an unlimited number of spots to veterans in the Yellow Ribbon Program and unlimited funding (to cover the cost of their chosen undergraduate, graduate or certificate program).”

As she embarks on her goal and mission to encourage veterans to attend FDU, Garcia will promote these assets, and rely on the network she’s built outside of the University to support veteran students. In the past few months, she’s attended local chamber of commerce meetings, sat on panels and generally advocated for FDU veterans. She also has plans to establish a larger veteran presence on the Florham Campus, to hold seminars and workshops on veteran needs for University faculty and staff, and support the new Student Veterans Association, which will bring student veterans and other FDU students together more.

“My goal is to make Fairleigh Dickinson University the leader in serving the veteran student for the independent colleges in this region,” she says, “and I’m excited.”