Viviana’s work in the community earned her the Center for Women Veterans 2021 Trailblazer award
Marine Corps veteran Viviana DeCohen’s decision to enroll in CUC’s leadership-gerontology doctoral program was inspired by her own experience as an over-50 returning student. When she went back to complete her bachelor’s degree at Mercy College (NY), she was inducted into the McNair Scholars program, which prepares undergraduates for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. “That is where I discovered other veterans, many over 50 like me, who were struggling,” she says. “And that was it! I knew then that I had to pursue my doctorate.”
While she was at Mercy College, Viviana established the first Veterans’ Center to support academic achievement and improve veterans’ graduation rate, securing a grant to provide computers, furniture and a library. She also developed “Operation Buddy-Up,” which partnered struggling student-veterans with academically stronger classmates. She later started “Operation Push” to provide encouragement, information, scholarships and support for those veterans who wanted to earn graduate degrees. Of the 211 veterans who participated, all graduated with GPAs of at least 3.0 and enrolled in masters’ programs.
For this work, and so much more, Viviana was named one of the 2021 Women Veteran Trailblazers by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. According to the Center for Women Veterans, the award “showcases the impact these trailblazers have made on a single event or action, or demonstrated over time in the areas of education, employment, entrepreneurship, homelessness, law, mental health and wellness.”
Viviana is the commissioner of the Mount Vernon, NY Veterans Service Agency, and serves in various capacities in the National Association of Veteran Program Administrators, Women Marines Association and the Barbara Giordano Foundation. “Working with our seniors, whether veteran students or those in the community, I know that I can make a difference,” she says.