GW’s First Senior Associate Dean for Military and Veterans Initiatives Named

Retired Vice Admiral Mel Williams Jr. will guide university’s work with veterans.

April 15, 2013

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Retired Vice Admiral Mel Williams Jr. has been named the inaugural senior associate dean for military and veterans initiatives at the George Washington University. In this role, Adm. Williams will guide the university on issues surrounding student veterans and the military. He will join the university on April 29.

GW has a long history of serving veterans. The first recipient of the original GI Bill, Don Balfour, was a GW student. Since the passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes the Yellow Ribbon Program, the university has seen a 300 percent increase in the enrollment of student veterans. This year, there are nearly 1,000 veterans and dependents using GI Bill benefits at GW. About two-thirds are in graduate and professional programs, and one-third are in undergraduate programs.

"Student veterans bring valuable perspectives to the classroom, and they set a powerful example of leadership and service," said Ali Eskandarian, dean of the College of Professional Studies and GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus. "Admiral Williams’ leadership will help guide the university in how we support these students from their first days as Colonials through their eventual graduation and employment in fields related to their interests and experience."

Each fall, GW hosts a special orientation program for incoming veteran and military students. The university also partners with the nonprofit Veterans Writing Project to offer courses that enable student veterans to work through stressful memories by converting them into narratives. The student organization GW Vets organizes community service activities and advocates on behalf of veterans’ issues locally and nationally. And as part of GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, the Veteran Service Initiative connects veterans with service opportunities on and off campus.

Adm. Williams, a nuclear submariner, most recently served as associate deputy secretary of energy and was responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to that role, he served for 32 years as a commissioned officer and one year as an enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy. In his nearly 10 years in command, he served as fleet commander, overseeing the 130 ships and more than 90,000 sailors and Marines that responded with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Adm. Williams is one of the U.S. Navy and Submarine Force’s "Centennial Seven"—the first seven African Americans to command U.S. Navy submarines in the first 100 years of the Submarine Force.

"As a former sailor, it is a privilege for me to be selected to serve with you at GW as we collectively support veterans, military members and their families," Adm. Williams said. "George Washington said in 1756 to officers of the Virginia Regiment, 'I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and reward the brave and deserving.' So in the year 2013, I thank you for the opportunity to join GW as we serve and reward the brave and deserving."

Adm. Williams graduated with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He earned a master’s degree in engineering from Catholic University of America and attended Harvard’s JFK School of Government to study national and international security. Adm. Williams is co-author of “Navigating the Seven Seas,” which was designated by the U.S. Navy as one of the 18 books deemed “essential reading” for all who serve.

In addition to various military awards, Adm. Williams has received the Catholic University of America 2012 Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award and the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Achievement, as well as induction into the STEM Hall of Fame, the National Society of Black Engineers Award for Lifetime Achievement in Government and the Thurgood Marshall Award for Service and Leadership.