From all of us at the Columbia University School of General Studies (GS), we want to send our deepest appreciation for all veteran communities. Aside from a wealth of knowledge, skill, and experience brought from incredible individuals, we are particularly grateful this year for the sense of camaraderie, and importance of connection that veterans bring to our society.

This year it is vital to stay connected, especially in a virtual setting, and we are thankful that the United War Veterans Council (UWVC) has made great strides to give us all the opportunity to celebrate in this year’s 2020 NYC Veterans Day Parade. Though this year’s parade will undoubtedly be different than those of the past, we are honored to be sponsoring this event for the twelfth consecutive year. 

At GS, we take immense pride in learning the importance of teamwork and collective mission from our nation’s veterans and those that continue to serve in the military. During these challenging times, our own student veterans at Columbia University have risen to the occasion to make sure the community is connected, and some have even gone as far as to volunteer their time to the pandemic response in New York City. Our student veterans represent a small portion of the larger strength of what a veteran can bring to the table.

This goes without saying that we understand the transition from military service to the veteran-life can be difficult and many challenges can await. Through our support services and resources at the Columbia University School of General Studies and Columbia University’s Center for Veteran Transition and Integration (CVTI), and the myriad of resources available across the country, we take pride in taking a leadership role in coordinating access to the best resources for veterans, at any stage.

We recognize that Veterans Day is the time to connect and appreciate service, and also the time to recognize its other title, Armistice Day, and that we strive to do our part along with the rest of the nation to move toward peace. This is also a day to recognize all of those veterans no longer with us, whether they have moved on from this world, paid the ultimate sacrifice, or POW/MIA.

It brings us great honor that we can recognize all of this, and at the same time provide an opportunity at a highly selective school to some of our nation’s best and brightest veterans. We are proud of all student veterans at Columbia University, our official undergraduate student veteran group – the Military Veterans of Columbia University (MilVets), all graduate student veteran groups, and all veterans whether faculty or staff, or in any other way affiliated with our Columbia Community.

We are privileged and humbled to be a part of this year’s virtual 2020 NYC Veterans Day Parade “step off”, because we value the importance of connection and community, the great potential in student veterans, and what we can continue to learn from all veterans.

Learn more about us at: https://gs.columbia.edu/

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About the Columbia University School of General Studies

The Columbia University School of General Studies traces its origins back to the mid-19th century when it was called Extension Teaching. Extension Teaching enrolled part-time students, professionals, and the general public in a “Literary and Scientific Course” offered in the evenings. Eventually renamed University Extension, the school began granting the Bachelor of Science degree in 1921.

In 1947, to meet the needs of thousands of military personnel returning from World War II, University Extension was restructured and designated the School of General Studies. The new college’s mission was to educate adults who, in addition to having an average of 5 to 10 years of life experience, had career demands and/or family responsibilities while pursuing their educations.

The college began awarding Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1969. Today, GS serves top-quality, degree-seeking undergraduates who have had a break of one year or more in their educations.

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Red, White, & Light Blue: A Brief History of the Military at Columbia

Robert Ast and Erich Erving 

During the American Revolution, the fate of Columbia University, like the fate of the United States itself, hung in the balance. Although some King’s College students fought for the colonies—such as Alexander Hamilton, who spent his mornings drilling with a volunteer militia before classes—most professors and students were Loyalists, including British spy John Vardill and College President Myles Cooper, who was driven out of his home and back to England by a Revolutionary lynch mob. An interim president briefly took over, but after classes were suspended from 1776-1784 and College Hall used as a hospital by occupying British forces, the postwar viability of the young school was in doubt, until a new charter and a name change offered a fresh start.

Columbia participated far more modestly in the U.S.’s 19th-century wars, including, somewhat surprisingly, the Civil War, which claimed the lives of two percent of the nation’s population. Columbia students enlisted at rates far below those of students at other colleges, and less than a dozen alumni died in battle. By 1917 a more prominent, more diverse University was able to present a more comprehensive response to World War I with Extension Teaching offering classes in trench warfare and vegetable gardening (for victory gardens), among numerous other topics. The University also hosted a branch of the SATC (Student Army Training Corps, the forerunner to the ROTC) and mandated drilling for all undergraduates in the fall of 1918.

Columbia’s response to World War I—and, three decades later, World War II—helped lay the foundation for the modern University. The first Core Curriculum course, Contemporary Civilization, began in the fall of 1918 as “War Aims,” a current-events class for SATC members. The aftermath of World War II brought not only Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower to Morningside Heights, but also the GI Bill®, a financial blessing for the University, which was still reeling from the Depression. In the years following WWII, half of Columbia’s students were veterans, most in the extension program, which, as its director noted in 1946, “found places for more than three thousand veterans, and it may be said that no veteran qualified to do work on the college level was turned away.” In 1947, partly to meet the needs of returning veterans, including women from the WACS (Women’s Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), the extension program was reorganized into an undergraduate college, the School of General Studies.

Since its founding, GS students have served in all of America’s conflicts and participated on all sides of the debates surrounding them. Sixty years later, servicemembers no longer constitute the majority of the student body, but the school’s commitment remains unchanged: GS continues to be a place where veterans—of other countries’ armed services as well as of the United States—can begin the next chapter of their lives in a supportive community.

Learn more: https://gs.columbia.edu/

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