How veterans shaped UMass Global

November 11, 2021

On this Veterans Day, we pause to reflect on our safely guarded freedoms, for which veterans have made great sacrifices. In doing so, we are reminded that students who served in the United States Military Services have made our university what it is today.

We are tremendously grateful to the many military and veteran students who, over the decades, have kept their pledge to our country while pursuing new knowledge. Their perseverance inspired the creation of a university that would come to embrace the complexities of serving high achieving students who are leading very complex lives.

University of Massachusetts Global is the culmination of efforts that began with a “good neighbor gesture” made more than half a century ago for Marines serving in Orange County, California.

While many who have worked at UMass Global over the years know this story, we’d like to provide new members of our team, and others, an opportunity to also take pride in our beginnings.

A rich history

In 1958, Chapman College faculty member J.C. Fikes began teaching about 80 marines serving at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. Additional professors followed his lead. Historian Louise Booth described this development as a “good neighbor gesture” in her book, “Fulfilling a Dream.” Her account, however, makes it clear that what began as a modest effort had far-reaching consequences. Instructors went on to help thousands of students, military and civilian, take classes at Residence Education Centers established up and down the West Coast and across the United States. Classes even took place on board Navy ships voyaging across the Pacific.

The Residence Education Centers became the College of Lifelong Learning, which took the name Chapman University College in 2001. The college spun off from Chapman as a separately incorporated institution in 2008, one year before adopting the Brandman University name in honor of the late Saul Brandman, who served in the Navy during World War II before starting a business career.

The modern era

UMass Global is now a private nonprofit affiliate of the University of Massachusetts operating 25 physical campuses, six of which are on the grounds of military bases in California and Washington. Today, our university helps working adults from all kinds of professions earn college degrees on a national level.
UMass Global’s commitment to veterans and active-duty students remains central to our identity, as visualized by our new seal which is reserved for official communications. The seal depicts a shield divided into quarters, with three chevrons in the shape of a sergeant’s rank insignia emblazoned upon the shield’s lower-left quadrant. This design element is a tribute to the university’s relationship with the military. The seal also bears the numerals “1958,” the year UMass Global regards as the starting point for its history.

The university also participates in several Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense programs benefiting veterans and students currently serving in the armed services. These include the GI Bill, Yellow Ribbon Program, and Troops to Teachers. UMass Global also staffs a Veteran Resource Center to help eligible students make the most of their benefits.

Coming full circle, the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro base locationwhere UMass Global’s story beganis the new site where the university honors its graduating classes. Last week, UMass Global celebrated the Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 graduates, many of whom are veterans, who gathered for Southern California Commencement.

Please join us today, and everyday, in honoring those who protect, and have protected, our freedoms so they may endure for generations to come.

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