Veterans and Military Affairs has Panther in front lines of assistance

Raul Herrera/Staff Writer

Inside Veterans and Military Affairs Center sits a corner office with a tan desk in its center. A plaque that was placed on top of a stack of papers on this desk reads: Marquay Smith.

Smith, a 2007 FIU alumnus, received his master’s degree in education and counseling and has been hired as the Veterans Affairs’ counselor.

“I [specialized] in rehab and mental health,” Smith said. “And I’ve worked in rehab, in the occupational rehab field, for the past two and a half years.

Michael Pischner, director of the Veterans And Military Affairs Center, said the department is lucky to have him.

“Instead of having the veterans pick up the phone to call the VA to find out a question, we just have to point them in the other direction of the building and he’s right there,” said Pischner. “It’s a huge benefit for us and all the veterans here.”

Smith mentioned his experience with psychological counseling of veterans.

“I recently left the state to come over to a veterans benefits counseling and other things, such as workshops.” [pullquote]”Anything to help a veteran on-campus to be successful in any type of way.”[/pullquote]

Pischner expressed his belief of the uniqueness of Smith’s placement by the department.

“The unique thing is that these are supposed to be experienced VA counselors that they put on your campus. He is an experienced VA counselor and he’s also an [alumnus] of FIU. Putting those two together you know that he has an affinity for the school and he loves what he’s doing, working with the veterans, I think that all around this is exactly what we needed here,” said Pischner.

“It takes a village to raise a child, it took the university to bring him here,” said Pischner, describing the application process that was necessary to bring Smith to the University.

Pischner also pointed to this being an extension of the VetSuccess on Campus program, which was the same plan that helped bring the VetSuccess On-Campus services.

“Now, we’re an all-encompassing program. We can take care of everything for that veteran when he comes to FIU,” said Pischner.

“I may have vets come in asking about the benefits that they’re entitled to – anything from vocational counseling, career counseling, mental health counseling, anything from employments to accommodations,” said Smith, describing a typical day.

Smith indicated benefit counseling and career counseling as being the main topics of visits by veterans to his office. Psychological counseling, according to Smith, largely had a “different sector” dedicated to it. The psychologists would be more in charge with previously diagnosed and treated conditions.

“I would deal with something that probably manifests into something that can potentially require more assistance. Like I said, anything that’s quick, I can resolve within a short amount of time, without anything turning into a type of long-term intervention,” said Smith, describing the psychological work he does as a VA counselor

“He’s here for anybody that has VA benefits: dependents, a spouse or the actual veterans,” said Pischner.

When asked about what inspired him to work for veteransa, Smith pointed to family history.

“I have family members that served. And I’m very passionate about what they did, very supportive of veterans,” said Smith, who later described the aim of his work.


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