By Kaitlyn McCormick
Rider welcomed a new part-time director of the Dr. Eugene Marsh Center for Veteran and Military Affairs this semester following the voluntary separation of a full-time predecessor last spring.
The new director, Matthew Samson, started his tenure with Rider this fall after earning his master’s in organizational leadership from the university last spring and retiring from 21 years of active-duty service in the United States Air Force. Samson said his mission is to work on Rider’s retention rate, specifically for military-connected students.
“Not everybody finishes school,” Samson said. “So my goal is to really help everybody, every single military-connected student reach graduation.”
According to Kristine Brown, Rider’s associate vice president for university marketing and communications, the retention data for “undergraduate, new, first-time freshman veteran students” between fall 2021 and fall 2022 is 77.7%.
Samson has been working closely with the students of the Rider University Veteran’s Association (RUVA) as he adjusts to his new position.
RUVA President, senior criminal justice major Darren Rush, spoke about his excitement to welcome Samson to Rider.
“He’s already working hard on giving more programs out for military-connected students, really allowing them to feel connected to the community,” Rush said.
RUVA’s Vice President, junior psychology major Jasmine Pristas, said, “Once you get to know him, he’s really nice and really friendly. I’m really happy to have him on board.”
Both Rush and Pristas, who have military connections through their fathers, stressed how impactful Rider’s Veteran and Military Affairs Office has been throughout their careers at Rider.
“If it wasn’t for that office and all the amazing people that are involved in that office, I don’t think I would be who I am today,” Rush said.
This experience is exactly what Samson wants to cultivate for future students.
“It’s really important, I think, to have veterans and military-connected students have a place where they can come and be comfortable with each other and just be able to get to know others that are in the same background as them,” Samson said.
He also emphasized how much he wants to use his new role to teach students. “
That’s a big part of what I want to do here,” Samson said. “Mentoring and empowering and not just being the leader here, but teaching them how to lead.”
Samson’s position follows the departure of Thomas Reddington, the previous full-time coordinator of the office, who was approved for Rider’s voluntary separation program last spring. Reddington served 24 years with the U.S. Marines before attending Rider and working his way up from a student volunteer to the head of the Veteran and Military Affairs Office.