Efforts to help veterans achieve and excel at the University of Southern Maine earned both honors from the nationwide Student Veterans of America and a meet-and-greet with former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald.
USM's Husky Veterans picked up a nomination for best business plan, and advisor Lorrie Spaulding was one of three finalists for the prize of Advisor of the Year. Top prizes went to others.
However, the nominations among 1,400 chapters were extraordinary, Spaulding said
In all, USM had seven people at the conference, held in Anaheim, California on Jan. 5 to 7. Each of USM's representatives — Spaulding, Camden Ege, Kelsey Earley, Melissa Chason, Colleen Ege, Beth Higgins, and Rudy Da Rocha — had a chance to attend workshops with more than 1,500 attendees.
And Husky Veterans founder Camden Ege delivered a presentation on USM's Green Zone training for faculty and staff. That work and the nominations led to the meeting with a small group of attendees and Secretary McDonald.
"It was clear that we're doing something right," Camden Ege said.
The Green Zone training seemed to stand out because of its focus, rather than giving people a lecture on life in the military, said Ege, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran and graduate student.
"I think ours is more refined to what faculty and staff at USM want to know," he said.
Spaulding said she felt honored to be with USM's highlighted team.
"It was kind of a nice way to be singled out," she said. "We got a lot of face time with SVA leadership."
In the fall, the national organization awarded its first Maine grant to the Husky Veterans. The $1,500 chapter grant will mostly be spent on efforts to help boost the group's visibility on USM's campuses in hopes of recruiting more members.