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UST Welcomes Trisha Ruiz, New Director of Forthcoming Veteran Success Center
10/5/2018

Trisha Ruiz, director of Veteran Success Center at University of St. Thomas - Houston

“If you build it, they will come.” Trisha Ruiz, new director of the forthcoming Veteran Success Center, summarizes her vision with this statement.

After six years of military service as a police officer and staff sergeant, followed by seven years of experience developing veteran services programs for Texas universities, Trisha knows first-hand what veteran students need.

“Taking off your uniform and boots can be a traumatic experience,” she shared. “I went instantly from Staff Sergeant Ruiz to Trisha. I could hardly remember who Trisha was, but I knew very well who Staff Sergeant Ruiz was. In the military, I stood for something larger than myself. But what now?”

In the U.S. Army, Trisha was a leader who was expected to know all the answers or figure them out fast. But after military service, as a new undergraduate student she felt a little lost getting oriented in the new environment, and found support for the transition lacking.

“I was a mom, and like many veterans, I was an older student,” she said. “I wasn’t able to find any guidance that was relevant for me.”

From Serving Her Country to Serving Brothers and Sisters in Arms

After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology at The University of Texas San Antonio, Trisha began working at Texas A&M San Antonio as veteran benefits coordinator, supporting students in their transition from military service to college life. “I really enjoyed showing these veteran students all the things I wished someone had shown me,” she said.

It’s a misconception that veterans don’t have the opportunity to attend private universities under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. UST is just as competitive for veteran students as any state school.

Two years later, Trisha began work on her master’s degree in higher education administration at San Angelo University. After graduation, she transitioned to University of Houston – Clear Lake, where she advanced to a director position while building their first standalone veteran services center. In five years, the center drove increased military-connected student enrollment by an impressive 43%, while overall enrollment remained flat.

Now, as she completes the final semesters of her doctorate in educational leadership, Trisha is pulling from her toolbox of skills to develop UST’s first Veteran Success Center. The first step will be to build pipelines to community colleges, educating students and the military-connected population that UST is an option for them. She explained, “It’s a misconception that veterans don’t have the opportunity to attend private universities under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.”

Because UST has committed enough funds to offset what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t cover, veteran students don’t have any out-of-pocket expense. Trisha continued, “UST is just as competitive for veteran students as any state school.”

Long term, Trisha and her team will connect with community college districts in other major Texas cities, educating them on the benefits of attending UST and pursuing career opportunities in Houston.

Forthcoming Veteran Success Center to Offer a Unique Healing Experience

Part of a larger growth push to serve more students and community members, UST’s Veteran Success Center will be the first standalone veteran center at a private university in Houston, and the first for a Catholic university in Texas. The Center will offer assistance coordinating disability benefits through Veterans Affairs, counseling for trauma including military-level sexual trauma, services for female veterans and a welcoming environment where veteran students can gather over a cup of coffee.

We’re going to help these veterans heal by acting as a bridge between their prior military experience and the civilian world. We want to help them discover their new identity as they become the new version, the best version of themselves.

“We’re going to help these veterans heal by acting as a bridge between their prior military experience and the civilian world,” Trisha explained. “We want to help them discover their new identity as they become the new version, the best version of themselves.”

The Center will exude the three Basilian values that define UST: goodness, discipline and knowledge. “Veterans inherently exude goodness and discipline, given their military service,” Trisha said. “Now they’re in search of knowledge, and that’s where we come in.” What will differentiate UST’s Veteran Success Center is a uniquely personal experience that celebrates veterans’ victories and helps heal any trauma from service.

Veterans inherently exude goodness and discipline, given their military service. Now they’re in search of knowledge, and that’s where we come in.

Trisha is working with UST administration to find the right space on campus to house the Center and hopes to open the doors by Spring 2019.

“Education is one of my top three personal values,” she said. “I love that I’m working in education, supporting my brothers and sisters in arms and contributing to something larger than myself.”

Want to learn about UST’s programs? Get in touch, and we’ll send you more info.