CLEMSON — A newly created Veterans Alliance Fellowship will provide financial assistance to six student veterans pursuing graduate degrees from Clemson University beginning in Fall 2020. The fellowship is the result of a collaborative effort between Clemson’s development office, Military and Veteran Engagement and the Graduate School and has been made possible through private gifts from President Jim Clements and his wife, Beth, as well as local nonprofit organizations and other individual donors.

Contributors to the Veterans Alliance Fellowship gather on the steps of Sikes Hall in November 2019

Director of Military & Veteran Engagement Brennan Beck, second from left, and Development Officer Bailey Griffin, front right, are joined by Veterans Alliance Fellowship donors (L-R) Tom von Kaenel, Derek Merkler, Wayne Watson, President Jim Clements and Dale Ellenburg. Ret. Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, not pictured, also contributed to the fund.
Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

“As we continue to increase our support and inclusion for student veterans, it’s important we support all of our veterans,” said Brennan Beck, director of Military and Veteran Engagement. “We’ve successfully raised money to create scholarships for undergraduates previously, but this new fellowship fund will be the first of its kind to support graduate student veterans enrolled at Clemson. Our hope is that these fellowships can better support our graduate student veterans and make Clemson a more veteran-inclusive campus.”

In addition to Clemson’s president and first lady, other fellowship donors include the Anderson and Keowee chapters of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and Ret. Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson. He serves as chairman of the board for Upstate Warrior Solution, a community-based organization that generates quality of life solutions for local veterans from Anderson, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Spartanburg counties. Other donors to the fund chose to remain anonymous.

Available data shows that fewer graduate student veterans use VA educational benefits than the ones who do use them. For many, benefits are exhausted while student veterans pursue undergraduate degrees. Adding to that, data shows graduate student veterans are more likely to be married, have children and work on a part- or full-time basis.

An enrolled graduate student veteran’s previous military status must be verified by the university in order to be eligible to receive one of the six fellowships. Tia Dumas, assistant dean of the Graduate School for professional development and inclusive excellence, said the creation of the fellowship program is a positive step toward offering assistance to six unique members of the Clemson family. It is the latest show of financial support for Clemson student veterans, following the inaugural payouts for the undergraduate scholarship endowment program and merit-based program established by Newport News Shipbuilding this fall.

“Not only does this fellowship program honor and support our student veterans in their pursuit of a graduate degree, but it also increases the visibility of their outstanding contributions to the mission of this university, the advancement of the ClemsonForward strategic plan and our university-wide efforts to foster a more inclusive graduate student body,” Dumas said. “As the founding chair of the Veterans Commission, Brennan has done an incredible job identifying student veteran needs and challenges and mobilizing faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members to address these experiences.

“My hope is that the Veterans Alliance Fellowship continues to grow to support our diverse graduate student veteran community, as well as inspire our undergraduate student veteran and professional veterans, to return to Clemson University for the next chapter in their lives.”