Cecilia Torres is dedicated to helping student veterans get the most from their military benefits and reach their educational goals.
Student veteran Jessica Stuart, who is working on a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership through NAU Online, says Torres’ support has been invaluable. “Ceci has been so helpful. I was so nervous to start the graduate program,” Stuart says. “But any questions I had with the veteran benefits or anything, she was just, ‘I’ll figure it out right now.’ She’s just the nicest lady.”
Torres was born and raised in Yuma. She got her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies at NAU–Yuma in the ’90s. Since 2018, she has been the Academic Program Coordinator for the Veteran and Military Services office. Her job includes recruiting military-connected students and providing guidance and support when they enroll.
Torres herself is a civilian, but her previous position was in student services—a job, she says, that has provided the foundation she needed to help veterans succeed.
“I’ve been able to complement what we do in our department, so reaching out to prospects in Yuma, statewide, and online, helping them transition and connect, and helping with the VA (US Department of Veterans Affairs) Benefit Enrollment Certification.”
Military-connected students need the same course advising as other students but also have some unique needs, like navigating benefits and transitioning to civilian life. Torres said that many military spouses have college credits from a number of different places because of their frequent moves. She had one student who came in with nine pages of transcripts. Active duty military need to know about the Military Institutional Excuse Form, which exempts them from penalty when they’re unable to meet their course requirements due to issues related to their service, including VA medical appointments. Torres also helps students with the Concurrent Enrollment Form, which certifies that courses the student takes elsewhere will transfer back to NAU and count toward graduation requirements.
It’s a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy, and Torres handles it all with efficiency and compassion. Many students are surprised that she’s not based in Flagstaff at the Veteran Success Center’s main office and appreciate her ability to help them with certain issues specific to NAU’s statewide and online students.
“Military-connected students really like to know the path,” she says. “I’m here to help you. If you have questions about your benefits, let me know because I can help you connect to the VA, understand your military benefits, and how to make them work for you or your dependents.”
For Torres and the entire Veteran Success Center staff, it’s not just a job; it’s a dedication to helping students succeed. “You can call and talk, and I’m your biggest cheerleader. And I think that’s probably what most of our staff is,” she says. “We’re here to cheer on our students. Come in and see us. We’re here to help you. We’re here to take the guesswork out. And if we don’t have the answers, we can connect you to someone who does.”
Master’s student Stuart confirms that Torres goes the extra mile for her military-connected students and truly is “the nicest lady.” Translated into military terms, they know she’s got their six.