Drum partnership grows

Desiree Drindak, director of veteran and military education at the SUNY Empire State College, poses for a portrait on Wednesday in Watertown. Julia Hopkins/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — SUNY Empire State College has expanded its 29-year partnership with Fort Drum to increase the number of available upper-level courses and in-seat classes and meet the needs of the Fort Drum community.

Soldiers, veterans, their families, and U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees working at Fort Drum will be able to take advantage of a new eight-week session in undergraduate programs, including bachelor’s degrees in management, accounting, addiction studies, business administration, and human resource management.

The new offerings respond to the need to provide members of the Fort Drum community with more in-seat and hybrid upper-level courses on post, which augment the independent studies, online, and study group formats provided by SUNY Empire.

For nearly three decades, SUNY Empire has provided continuous on-post education to the soldiers, veterans, families, and DOD civilians of Fort Drum. These new upper-level courses and in-seat classes add learning options, expand access, and foster degree completion, all the while offering flexibility and variety.

Desiree Drindak, director of the Office of Veteran and Military Education at SUNY Empire State College, has been running the program for five years.

“In general, at SUNY Empire, our mission is to support our active duty, guard, reserve, veterans and their families,” she said. “I think an important part of the conversation is that yes we’re gonna be on post, but we really are looking to broaden our scope and our perspective to meet a different niche of students that want that in-seat perspective.” In collaboration with the Fort Drum Education Center, which just completed a needs assessment, SUNY Empire looked at historically what students were pursuing, which was primarily community and human services, and business degree programs, according to Mrs. Drindak.

As part of SUNY Empire’s commitment to access and affordability, its faculty is trying to replace traditional textbooks with Open Educational Resources (OERs) wherever possible. OER textbooks, and other OER resources, are available to students at very little or no cost.

“We’re about access to education, SUNY Empire is about providing access to students, and textbooks and the cost of books can be a barrier to students pursuing their education,” Mrs. Drindak said. “One of the pieces that we wanted for this particular program and the expansion was to keep the cost as low as possible, to commit to, when available, we will use the educational resources that are available and free for students rather than having additional out-of-pocket costs.”

Students will have access to an abundance of college resources both locally and at a distance, including learning support, accessibility services, IT support, assistance with financial aid and specialized military funding, career services, and health and wellness resources.

“SUNY Empire is proud to expand our longstanding partnership with the Fort Drum to provide new educational opportunities for service members, veterans, and their families,” said Jim Malatras, president of SUNY Empire. “The college’s personalized, flexible educational format is the perfect way to earn a degree around the demands of military life. We look forward to working closely with our partners at Fort Drum long into the future.”

This spring will be the first full term for the new programming, according to Mrs. Drindak.

“The idea is that we want to be able to support students holistically and programmatically as best that we can,” Mrs. Drindak said. “These new in-seat classes will be in the evenings so there will be a variation in scheduling to meet the demands and the flexibility of the student depending on what their schedule is.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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