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Eric Wheeler, Monroe Community College

We celebrate a veteran who teaches other veterans.
How do you outsmart a pretty smart college teacher? With the help of his colleagues and students. Eric Wheeler is coordinator of the Academy for Veterans' Success at Monroe Community College. His boss made up a story and told him to make a presentation. Then we walked in.

Eric was nominated for a Golden Apple Award by his co-worker, Lori Bartkovich. She also works with veterans at MCC.

"He literally can put so many hours a day in, not only for MCC students but out in the community; and I don't know how he does it, but hemake such an impact on students' lives. He's just that amazing and he just needs to get that recognition," she said.

"Thank you. I came in like 'boy am I getting fired in here,'" Wheeler said after our surprise. 

As a veteran himself, Eric Wheeler is uniquely qualified for his job. 

"He is a teacher but he also understands what it's like to be deployed. He understand what it's like to re-enter society after you have been in a combat zone," Peggy Harvey-Lee said. 

He is a veteran committed to helping other veterans. 

"Just seeing them go to school here, succeed in school here make me incredibly proud; to work along side them. Having been a student here myself, going back to school after getting out of the military. It's just great to be a part of this team," Wheeler said.

He is a humble man who appreciates a thank you from a co-worker.

"Well to have somebody I respect so much do something like this, it means quite a bit to me," he said. 

Below you can read the letter that Lori sent to us about Eric Wheeler. 

Dear News 8,

If there is a person that is able to do 72 hours of work in a 24 hour day, Eric Wheeler would be that phenomenon. On any given day Eric will do a half day of walk-in hours with student, host an advising workshop for faculty, adjunct teach a military history class on-line, meet with one of his military mentees, and then he will spend the rest of his day doing outreach in the veteran community. Much like superman, when a student veteran calls with an emergency, Eric swoops in to save the day. We all secretly wager that there is a suit and cape hidden in his car that allows him to be everywhere and anywhere at once so successfully.
What makes Eric so integral to his students’ success is that he plays a part in all facets of their education. For example, Eric hosts a veteran advising workshop that informs faculty and staff of the military transitional issues students may have in the classroom. As an extension of that, he works with Dr. Holly Wheeler on the innovative Support for Transitioning and Returning Service members (STARS) program. STARS gets faculty and staff certified to help this at risk population when the students experience transitional, personal, and emotional episodes that affect their ability to learn effectively. Eric also participates in Professor Heather William’s Military Mentor Program that assigns tenured faculty mentors to students. Mentors, such as Eric, provide extra guidance, counseling, or advocacy in both students’ academic and occupational pursuits.  Most recently, Eric wrote a grant to allow him to create and teach a section of the College Orientation Seminar (COS) at a transitional house for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries. This learning opportunity increases the students’ chances of success when they re-enter the world of academia full time. 
When Eric is not on campus, he is fervently participating in numerous volunteer activities in the community. For example, he currently sits on the Veteran Advisory Boards of both Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College, ensuring our veteran transfer students continue to be taken care of in the next stage of their academic career. He is also a co-founder of the ‘One Team-One Fight’ of Rochester, which is a coalition of colleges, businesses, and veteran service organizations that strive to ensure that all veterans are able to find out about and benefit from the different services available in the community.   
During Eric’s free time, he is also a volunteer for Honor Flight that takes World War II veterans down to Washington, D.C. to visit the monument built in their honor. He also gives education briefings to active duty, National Guard, and reserve units to ensure they are correctly informed about their education benefits and the avenues available for continuing their education while in the military. Eric also acts as one of their local employer liaisons through a Department of Defense Office called Employer Support of the National Guard and Reserve (ESGR). 
On a more personal note, Eric saves lives. He did it while in the military, and he continues to do it here at Monroe Community College. One particular incident was a veteran here on campus that was suffering from severe PTSD, economic hardship, a threat of losing his military status, and had come to a breaking point of where he was considering taking his own life. Eric took on the responsibility of getting him connected with a VA mental health counselor and a counselor here on campus. Eric also spoke with his unit to clear his status and worked with the Veterans Outreach Center (VOC) to get him extra help to recover from his economic hardship and legal issues. Eric also took the student on as a mentee to ensure that the student continued to receive support from Monroe Community College throughout the rest of academic career. In conclusion, Eric is one in a million, and we at Monroe Community College are lucky to have him.

Sincerely,

Lori Bartkovich
Monroe Community College


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