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Friday, January 15, 2021

Activities & Organizations

New veteran services director leads from the front


The Veteran Services Office is under new leadership.

Celina Dugas has been appointed the new director of the VSO, and she said she hopes to make an impact on the University through her position.

“I want to help graduate veterans. I see myself in many of them,” said Dugas. “I went to college right out of the army, and ultimately my VA benefits led to a degree, then a graduate degree, and then a long, rewarding career doing what I love and serving this population. I want the same for them.”

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Veteran services director Celina Dugas is an Army veteran as well as a military spouse. | Pablo Milanese/ The Cougar

In addition to being the wife of a recently-retired Air Force veteran, Dugas has worked for the United States Army as a preventative medicine specialist studying hantavirus in the western U.S. Afterward, she moved to social work for the Air Force, helping veterans and their families reintegrate after deployment. She later took over as manager for a program in Bedford, Mass. that helped provide medical health services to student veterans.

“As a member of the search committee that found her, I am excited about Dugas’ ability to leverage her social work and VA background to advocate on behalf of student veterans here,” said Army veteran and Student Government Association president-elect Shaun Smith. “Her help, along with a revitalized Student Veterans Association, is bringing a lot of renewed veteran energy back to campus.”

Most visits to the VSO are for matters of financial aid, but the office’s responsibilities extend as far as helping students understand what legal matters such as the Hazlewood Act and GI Bill mean to them, running the veterans’ work-study program, and advocating for student veterans in need.

“Dugas has taken several initiatives on behalf of the VSO and the SVA,” said Marine veteran and Student Veterans of America secretary Christina Klein. “From day one, she has been advocating for student veterans and their families on campus. She’s organized free tutoring for math courses, requested additional resources for the VSO and even tailored the office for stress-free finals last semester.”

She has also received no shortage of praise from student veterans with which she’s worked.

“You can tell she has the best interests of the veterans at mind,” said Veterans Services peer counselor and Army vet Mark Ferguson. “It’s great to have someone around who will stand up for you.”

Dugas said that her main goal as director is the same as everywhere else she’s served — to leave the program better than she found it.

“My goal is to help the program grow into something we can all be proud of,” Dugas said. “I want us to be the Veteran Services Office that sets the benchmark for other universities in this state and country.”

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