Saddleback College Receives $2 Million State Innovation Award to Assist Veterans in Degree Completion


The California Department of Finance awarded Saddleback College $2 million under the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education program for the college’s Pathway to Completion – Veteran Articulation Track (V-CAT) initiative. The state awards recognize innovations in California’s colleges that help reduce the time it takes students to complete degrees and credentials and/or make college more affordable.

Currently, student veterans can only receive a few elective credits that contribute towards a degree, regardless of their technical and advanced training completed while on active duty. This extends the time it takes to complete a degree much longer than the 36 months of education benefits included in the federal GI Bill. The goal of the college’s multi-year V-CAT initiative is to reduce the time to completion for student veterans towards degrees and certificates based on their demonstration of knowledge and competencies, including skills acquired through military training, and appropriate prior experiences.

The V-CAT initiative will integrate the college’s award-winning Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) program with an interactive “military to college completion” toolkit. The online toolkit will incorporate career and transfer planning as well as other resources to assist student veterans and active duty service members. V-CAT will develop an “online credit translator” linked with the college’s academic planning tool to help veterans determine what military training is eligible to earn credits towards their degree pathway.

Tod A. Burnett, Saddleback College president stated, “This is an incredible opportunity for Saddleback College and our student veterans to apply their prior military training towards a degree or certificate. These funds are a game changer for the landscape of higher education for veterans in our state.”

Kim D’Arcy, president of the Saddleback College Academic Senate, said, “Investigating ways in which we can support our student veterans and assist in completing their educational goals is not only the right thing to do, but what is in the best interest of our college and district. We look forward to this opportunity and are excited for the future.”

The V-CAT initiative will open opportunities for faculty at Saddleback College and the California State University (CSU) system to review and consider military training and curriculum. The college will partner with CSU Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona, and the CSU Office of the Chancellor to implement best practices recognized by the California Community College Academic Senate and the American Council on Education (ACE). The college will be responsible for creating the model with the CSU system and later train other colleges and universities in the methods used, tools available, and credit articulated with the intent of applying earned military training for degree credit throughout the state.

Terence Nelson, the faculty VETS program coordinator and veterans counselor, explains, “Many of our student veterans come to us having amassed such a depth of knowledge and skills that it is difficult to tell them that our public institutions in California articulate very little to no actual credits towards their degree path. We aim to first investigate ACE guidelines and curricular standards in specific military training and experiences, then consider articulation agreements, and ultimately award appropriate levels of credit statewide in accordance with state law.”


Saddleback College Foundation 17th Annual Gala Honors Dr. Tod A. Burnett and Raises Record-Breaking Dollars


Dr. Tod A. Burnett accepting the inaugural Summit Award from Saddleback College Foundation Board of Governors president Anthony Ferry.

It was a record-breaking night for the Saddleback College Foundation, as they raised nearly $300,000 at the 17th annual gala held this past Saturday, April 1st at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. Over 450 guests helped the foundation raise record-breaking dollars through sponsorships, ticket sales, silent auction, live auction, and “raise the paddle” scholarship appeal.

Anthony Ferry, president of the Foundation Board of Governors said, “I am so proud of our Foundation and supporters for creating such a special event that enabled us to bring the needs of our students to the forefront of the community.”

The gala celebrated the exemplary nine-year legacy of Saddleback College president, Dr. Tod A. Burnett, who is retiring from the college this summer. He was awarded the inaugural Board of Governors Summit Award for his outstanding leadership in philanthropy and community advocacy.

During his remarks, Dr. Burnett stated, “The work of the Saddleback College Foundation is critical to our college mission.  The number one reason that many students do not succeed in college is due to personal financial hardships. I hope that next year’s gala surpasses our results tonight, and that over the coming years the Saddleback College Foundation continues to prosper and raises greater dollars than each year before. But in order for my hope, our hope, to become a reality, it will be up to each and every one of you, and up to all of our colleagues, friends, neighbors, and community partners who are not here tonight, to not allow the Saddleback College Foundation to wither or rest upon its laurels. The needs of our students and community are too great, and it is now your responsibility to ensure the future success of this foundation.”

The program also featured retired Marine Sergeant Juan Valdez, a recent alum, who received a standing ovation as he took the stage with his service dog Tank. Sergeant Valdez, who was wounded in action and received the Purple Heart, shared the impact that the faculty, administration, and foundation had on him during his time at Saddleback College. “Saddleback College stands for hope, and changes lives for the better,” he shared.

In addition, Dr. Heather A. Allen, a Full Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Department of Pathology at The Ohio State University, was presented with the 2017 Alumna of the Year award. Dr. Allen was a returning student to Saddleback College in the ‘90s when she learned about a special scholarship available to science students. That scholarship led to her future career as a scientist where she specializes in researching molecular organization, ion pairing, and hydration at aqueous interfaces. “Her career speaks to her incredible courage, persistence, and intelligence and to the power of a Saddleback College scholarship,” shared Dr. Burnett.

Dr. Burnett closed the night by saying, “It has been an enormous honor and pleasure to serve Saddleback and South Orange County for these past nine years. Thank you for your tremendous support of Saddleback and our students, faculty, and staff, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of me, and my vision to make Saddleback a model community college that excels in everything we do, beginning with student success. I came to Saddleback to make a difference, and on June 30th I leave with the satisfaction of knowing that together we made a lasting positive difference.”

The record-breaking night would not have been possible without the generous support of the following sponsors:

Saddleback College Emeritus Institute, Valedictorian Sponsor; Follet Bookstore, Scholar Sponsor;  Neudesic, LLC, Scholar Sponsor; GSM Auto Group: Audi Mission Viejo, Infiniti Mission Viejo and Volvo Mission Viejo, Scholar Sponsor; Dr. Tod A. Burnett, Scholar Sponsor; Angels for the Arts, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Anthony and Carie Ferry, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Associated Student Government, Saddleback College, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Capata & Co. – CPA’s, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; City of Mission Viejo, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Driving Miz Daisy Vintage Market, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Futek, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Goodwill, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Irvine Valley College Foundation, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; John Williams, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; South Orange County Economic Coalition, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Tilly’s Life Center, Cardinal and Gold Sponsor; Allen Family Automotive Group, Valet Sponsor; Rancho Capistrano Winery, VIP Wine Sponsor; and Orange Coast Magazine, Magazine Sponsor.

 The Saddleback College Foundation initiates and coordinates college and community fundraising in support of Saddleback College and its students. By raising funds for scholarships and other programs, which directly benefit students, the foundation is committed to increasing student success and the enhancing the excellent education offered by Saddleback College. Guided by a group of dedicated community leaders, the foundation strives to make higher education attainable for all in south Orange County. For more information or to make a donation, please visit

 Located in Mission Viejo, Saddleback College provides dynamic, innovative, and student-centered postsecondary education and training to the greater south Orange County community.  Having served more than 665,000 students since 1968, Saddleback College offers more than 300 renowned degree, certificate, transfer, and lifelong learning programs to help students succeed in reaching their personal and career goals.  For more information, please visit