Fernandez, who is a faculty liaison for veterans as well as a co-sponosor of the Chandler-Gilbert Community College chapter of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO), spent his sabbatical semester (Fall 2014) researching and developing an online training program to assist faculty members in understanding and dealing with student veterans. Working closely with the SVO, the result was "Toolkit for Training Faculty to Best Serve Student Veterans."
The training program is available free of charge through a creative commons license and consists of PDFs organized into 10 chapters. It can be used as a self-paced training for individual instructors, or its modules can be used by others to conduct in-person training at individual campuses.
Since veterans awareness training for faculty is one of the required components of Veterans Supportive Campus designation by the State of Arizona, Fernandez's toolkit directly benefits all of the Maricopa County Community Colleges in advancing them one step closer to that very important designation.
Fernandez also has plans to introduce the toolkit to colleges across the country, including several major universities. The program has the potential to benefit student veterans and those who instruct them nationwide.
"Concise, accurate, worthwhile training for faculty and staff in dealing with student veterans has been hard to find for many years," said Reda Chambers, coordinator of veterans services, who nominated Fernandez for the award. "For-profit groups have stepped in to fill this need, but at several thousand dollars per unit, these programs have proven cost-prohibitive for many schools. Miguel's toolkit contains a wealth of information, yet its format is extremely readable and undaunting."
In recognition of his accomplishment, Fernandez will receive a $1,000 scholarship to designate to a student at any college or center within the Maricopa County Community College District.