Ron Williams

Ron Williams, director of re-entry student and veterans services for the Cal Veterans Services Center at Berkeley.

Case Study Highlights

THE CATALYST MOMENT

A Berkeley alum who is also a military veteran created an expanded center for veterans to help them flourish at Berkeley in a truly welcoming community.

BEST PRACTICES

  • Establish a clear mission statement and learning objectives that incorporate constituent feedback.
  • Create a space that offers camaraderie, services, and a place from which better engagement can begin.
  • Draw on collaborations and partnerships to provide an expanding variety of services.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Adaptability, patience, and cultivated partnerships are all needed. 

WHAT'S NEXT

  • The program will launch the Veteran Outreach Peer Advocate initiative to include webinars and an array of additional online resources.
  • The location of a permanent home for the center will be finalized.

For many veterans, life after military service means adjusting to a new life and livelihood. And when veterans choose to pursue a degree in higher education, they often have an additional set of challenges to navigate. When Coleman Fung ’87, a former US Army Supply Sergeant, attended Berkeley, there were no veteran services at the university. And rather than being recognized for their leadership and public service achievements, veterans were sometimes discounted within the Berkeley community.

Fung credits Berkeley with many things, including an outstanding education and nurturing the perseverance and courage that a sometimes overwhelming — or even inhospitable — institution can inspire. Perseverance and courage are things Fung knows well, having emigrated from Hong Kong to New York City at 16 years of age. 

After much success in the technology business world, Fung created and endowed two research centers at Berkeley. Fung was also committed to ensuring that Berkeley student veterans have better access to services than when he was an undergraduate. When he learned about Berkeley’s nascent Cal Veteran Services Program that was created following a 2006 State initiative establishing veterans services in every California institution of higher education, he was enthusiastic about improving and expanding the program. Fung was very aware of the massive withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq that was expected to create the largest influx of student veterans since World War II.

“Student vets bring with them experiences, sacrifices, and commitments that are most likely not shared by the main student body,” said Fung. His goals include ensuring that vets have access to the wisdom of other vets on campus and that military personnel have access to better guidance about their educational options beyond what can be provided by the Veterans Administration.

$500,000 gift transforms veterans services at Berkeley

A new center made possible by a gift from Fung will provide one-stop access to an array of services such as veteran benefits information and counseling, academic counselors, career preparation and networking, community outreach, and more.

The new center and an enhanced veterans website will allow student veterans to both enrich their own lives and those of their fellow veterans. “I’d like to encourage Berkeley student vets to be ‘ambassadors’ to other vets in the Bay Area and offer them guidance on their educational options, especially on how to use their VA benefits,” said Fung. “With the website we are building, I would hope to see our effort become a model for other schools to adopt. The new space will be very conducive for our cohort to help and support each other.”

Now, by making a gift exceeding $500,000, Fung is taking steps to enhance the outreach to veterans. His gift will help enable Berkeley to expand upon the university’s existing position as a leader in veteran support. “Expanding access to a top-tier public research university such as Berkeley exemplifies public service for the common good and the warrior ethos of leaving no one behind,” said Ron Williams, director of re-entry student and veterans services.

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Learn more about the programs at Berkeley that made this case study possible.

  Cal Veterans Service Center

  Transfer Scholarship Initiative