Saddleback College VETS Program Receives Diversity and Equity Award

For Immediate Release: 
July 28, 2016
The Saddleback College Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) program was named a recipient of the Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Awards at a ceremony hosted by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the Foundation for California Community Colleges on July 19th at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. The award was established in 2001 by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and honors college programs whose work has fostered student equity, diversity, and access in the California Community Colleges. 

Dr. John W. Rice was appointed by Governor Pete Wilson to the Board of California Community Colleges in 1992 and served until his death in 2000. While on the board, he displayed a strong commitment to multicultural learning experiences for all students. His daughter and former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, shared, “My father’s legacy lives on through the work of the California Community Colleges to secure diversity and equity for generations to come.”

Prior to the awards celebration Terence Nelson, Saddleback College VETS program coordinator, was invited to brief the Board of Governors on the state of veterans services. He was joined by former BOG member and Navy veteran Bobby McDonald and Dr. Tod Burnett, president of Saddleback College, in addressing the board on the needs of our veterans seeking higher education in California. An impassioned speech by OEF United States Marine Corps veteran and Saddleback graduate, Greg Zaborski, gave evidence to the life changing work done by the VETS program staff. He stated that while at Saddleback College, “for the first time since the Marine Corps, I felt like someone had my back.”
Dr. Burnett, stated, “I am proud that our VETS program was selected to receive the Dr. John W. Rice Award. It is a testament to the outstanding services we provide to our student veterans who we hold very dear on our campus and in our community. This award also recognizes the remarkable dedication of our VETS program counselors, staff, and students, as well as the tremendous support from our entire college community.” 

In a nomination letter to the awards committee, former VETS program student Tony Belot wrote, “So often, veterans are not viewed as a group needing access and inclusion in higher education. The Saddleback VETS program continues to lead across boundaries and is dynamically committed to creating an environment where our nation’s heroes can thrive academically and socially. As a program, it is focused on not only honoring service, but bridging the gap between civilians and the military; so that the service member’s perspective is not lost on campus and adds value and intellectual diversity to the learning environment.”

On receiving the award, Nelson, stated, “It is with great humility and honor that we accept the 2016 Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award, one of the most prestigious recognitions bestowed upon a program in our California Community College system. This is a culmination of the dedicated and committed service of our staff, counselors, and administration over the past eight years on behalf of our local veterans seeking a better life through higher education at Saddleback College. The VETS program not only sets the bar in veteran services in the state but advances the lives of our returning military veterans, active duty personnel, and their families.”

Established in 2009, the Saddleback College VETS program was the first fully functional veterans resource center in Orange County and the third in the state. Serving over 1,300 student veterans, active duty military, and dependents each year, the program seeks to bridge the cultural divide between civilians and our military through inclusion; full  integration of  student  veterans in campus life; and by providing training to faculty, staff, and management. 

Over the past year, the program’s counselors, staff, and student workers have enhanced services by offering trainings on campus to dozens of institutions; contributing sage advice to peer colleges and universities through webinars, site visits and conference workshops; helping multiple veterans transfer to top tier institutions; and giving student veterans a new outlook on their lives. 

For more information on the Saddleback College VETS program visit

Published July 28, 2016