Five Facts About Using VA Educational Benefits: What You Need to Know


By Renzo Lara, Veteran’s Benefits & Disability Coordinator

If you have served in the United States military and are eligible for educational benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), UC San Diego Extension is proud to play a part in realizing your educational goals. Applying for VA educational benefits at any college or university can be a complicated process, so we’ve compiled five fast facts that address frequently asked questions to help make registration easier.

1. We can help you with multiple types of VA educational benefits.

  • The Post 9/11 GI Bill® (Chapter 33)
  • The Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 33)
  • Vocational/Rehabilitation Benefits (Chapter 31)
  • Dependent Benefits (Chapter 35)
  • Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606)

2. The VA only pays for approved academic programs.

Eligible students must plan to pursue an entire certificate or program of study as opposed to individual classes or multiple certificates. VA benefits exclude courses that are not part of the selected certificate or program study.

3. You must apply directly to the VA for benefits.

If you have never applied for VA benefits, start by filing form #22-1990. If you have applied for educational benefits and used them at another school, please complete form #22-1995. (Chapter 31 students, please visit the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment website.)

It typically takes 4-5 weeks for the VA to process new applications. For continuing students, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for the VA to process paperwork, so plan accordingly.

4. Students must complete the benefits application process.

In order to process your benefits, we will need:

  1. VA Educational Benefits Intake Form
  2. VA Requirements and Student Responsibilities
  3. UC San Diego Extension Terms & Conditions – Various VA forms (corresponds to a particular VA Chapter)

Our VA Registration Packet provides all of these forms, and provides full details on required VA forms and academic transcripts needed to process your educational benefits.

5. Registration depends on educational benefit.

  • Students using Chapter 33 and 31 benefits must contact their VA representative for class enrollments.
  • Chapter 30, 35, or 1606 students must enroll and pay for courses.

After students have enrolled, the VA representative certifies classes to the VA. Given the multiple student requests during our peak weeks (the first week or two of the quarter), students must submit course enrollments within a reasonable time frame before the beginning of each quarter.

For more information on our VA Educational Benefit procedures, please visit our VA benefits page or feel free to contact us at We sincerely thank you for your service and look forward to assisting you with the next steps in your educational career. It’s our goal for you to succeed. Please let us know how else we can help you reach your educational goals.

Conference Gives Extension Instructors a Chance to Connect and Learn

By Eilene Zimmerman

“All work is learning,” said UC San Diego Extension’s Dean, Mary Walshok, when she took the stage at the Instructor Conference on Saturday, April 11, 2015. “We operate at the intersection of knowledge and practice and… it’s the knowledge and skills that you share with others that makes our community very competitive,” she said. The community Walshok referred to is a big one—over 30,000 students enroll annually in Extension programs, taught by 1,000 instructors.

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In Walshok’s energizing address to more than 120 Extension instructors, she emphasized the university’s commitment to the greater San Diego community, which includes its campus-based, cross-disciplinary research and teaching programs. “That’s where Extension is, just look at our hundreds of certificate programs,” said Walshok. Those programs are at the heart of Extension’s mission, often helping professionals repurpose skills and retool so they remain relevant in a work world that is constantly changing.

Bernie Greenspan, an Extension instructor who teaches courses in intellectual property law, said his students are often in career transition. Some are in the paralegal certificate program and others are paralegals wanting to specialize in patent law. “I also get scientists who want to leave the bench and become patent agents,” he said. “Careers aren’t single-path anymore. We all have to think more broadly.” Greenspan is a patent agent at Prometheus Laboratories.

Instructor Parker Pike teaches an introductory marketing class and said a high percentage of his students have master degrees and Ph.D.’s, but “can’t run a meeting. They don’t understand the marketing component of their businesses,” he said. “They come to my class with the mindset of an academic and need to develop skills to think differently—to be able to listen to colleagues and the community, so they can do their job better.” Pike, who has been an Extension instructor for nearly 30 years, is both a serial entrepreneur and a seasoned marketing executive.

Instructors at the conference took advantage of a rare opportunity to connect with colleagues, something Bruce Dunn, the Extension’s associate dean and an instructor, suggests doesn’t happen often. “As an instructor you only really know the students in your classes,” said Dunn. “The conference is a chance for them to come together and know they are part of the larger community. And, it gives us a chance to update them on new university policies and procedures.” Instructors also mingled with Extension directors and attended workshops designed to enhance both their teaching and the classroom experience.

Workshop topics included: how to use discussion boards; data analytics and feedback tools to improve student success; and how to incorporate social media into teaching and learning. Vicki Krantz, director of business, science and technology programs for Extension, led a workshop that allowed instructors to share their teaching and classroom management strategies with one another. “Every person walked away from the workshop with something new to incorporate into their teaching,” said Krantz.

The conference was also a way for the Extension’s leadership to thank the instructors. “They are the heart of each student’s experience and our evaluations tell us that they are doing an extraordinary job,” said Krantz. “Ninety-four percent of students say their instructors exceeded their expectations.”

As a leading provider of professional education, UC San Diego Extension continually seeks highly qualified instructors with in-depth experience. If you believe you would be a good fit or have an idea for a new course, we encourage you to apply. Visit

Take the Next Step: Career Development Week, March 24-26, 2015


Do you want to learn directly from industry experts?

Is it time to focus on your future and advance your career?

Seeking a change in your career path and need quality information on the fastest growing job sectors?

Join us at UC San Diego Extension’s annual “Career Development Week,” March 24-26, 5 pm to 8 pm, where you will hear about the developments and opportunities in Life Sciences, Healthcare, Business, Law, and Technology.

Keynote Session with Manpower CEO, Phil Blair March 24th
Phil Blair, CEO of Manpower San Diego, will open up this year’s event with the keynote session, Be the Talent Companies Crave: A “Winning” Guide to Career Advancement. In this question and answer session, Mr. Blair will share the strategies and techniques to leverage your education and experience and build a career you’re passionate about.  Register early, as seating is limited for this session.

Open to the public, industry experts and instructors will lead 20 workshops throughout the week.  The workshops will provide the most up-to-date information on today’s most promising professions.  Plus, there will be ample time to network, ask questions, and enroll in a course and/or certificate program.

“Career Development Week” will be held at UC San Diego Extension’s University City Center, 6256 Greenwich Drive, San Diego, CA 92122. Driving directions: Interstate 805, take the Governor Drive exit (west) to Greenwich Drive.

The workshop schedule:

  • Tuesday, March 24: Business & Law Night, 5 pm to 8 pm
  • Wednesday, March 25: Life Sciences & Healthcare Night, 5 pm to 8 pm
  • Thursday, March 26: Technology Night, 5 pm to 8 pm

To learn more and pre-register for workshops, visit

Career Talk: “Justice Served, A Prosecutor’s View of the Law”


A monthly series of conversations with UC San Diego Extension instructors

  • Topic: “Justice Served: A Prosecutor’s View of the Law”
  • Host: John Freeman, Director of Communications, UC San Diego Extension
  • Guest: Richard Sachs, Instructor, Criminal Law & Procedure and Evidence Law


An Extension instructor in Paralegal, Richard Sachs teaches two courses, Criminal Law & Procedure and Evidence Law. He’s also a long-time prosecutor and deputy district attorney with the City of San Diego.

It’s his job to make sure convicted criminals serve sufficient prison time before parole, a process known as “lifer hearings.” Throughout his career, he has regarded law as “endlessly fascinating.”


  • “The majority of our cases are for murder, first- or second-degree murder. A small minority are for kidnapping, rape or robbery. … Most of the time, we’re opposed to parole. If I was to put a number on it, it would probably be about 95 percent.”

This Career Talk Radio podcast is part of Career Channel. You can subscribe to Career Talk Radio via iTunes.


A Caseload of Seeking Justice: “It’s My Job to Represent the Best Interests of the State”

As a long-time prosecutor and deputy district attorney, Richard J. Sachs has always been focused on a singular task: to seek justice. “That’s the main reason I do what I do,” he says, reflecting on his nearly 30-year career with the San Diego District Attorney’s office, headed by Bonnie Dumanis.

Richard Sachs: "For me, teaching turns the clock back a hundred years."

Richard Sachs: “For me, teaching turns the clock back a hundred years.”

An English Literature graduate of Chicago’s Loyola University and John Marshall Law School, he has been an instructor in UC San Diego Extension’s paralegal program for 10 years. Currently, he’s teaching Criminal Law & Procedure and Evidence Law.

Q: In your career with the district attorney’s office, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself and the law?

A: Probably that you never stop learning. You’re always learning new variations of things you thought you already knew. You always have to continue practicing the practice of law.

Q: What’s your specialty with the DA’s office?

A: I focus on parole hearings for those offenders who are coming up for parole after serving long periods in prison.

Q: So it’s your job to make sure they’ve served enough time before being released?

A: It’s my job to represent the best interests of the state. Most of the time, yes, we don’t want them to be released. We want to make reasonably sure they’ve served enough time for the crime or crimes they have committed.

Q: What is your level of empathy?

A: It’s only for the victims. Every crime leaves behind a victim. Sometimes, you can understand why they committed their crimes, because of a bad childhood or something like that. But in this office, we always have more sympathy for the victims.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at UC San Diego Extension?

A: What you teach is twice learned. I’ve always believed that. It’s a chance to stay on top of your field and interact with students who are taking paralegal courses for the first time. It invigorates you, forces you to stay on top of your game.

Q: What lessons do you hope they learn?

A: The basic fundamentals of law, how to be resourceful, how to get to the bottom of things. As paralegal students, they need far less in-depth legal knowledge than a lawyer would need. Most of all, they need the basic principles, so they can speak the language. I teach the basic fundamentals and problem-solving skills.

Q: What are the psychological benefits for you of being an instructor?

A: Teaching slows down my life. Everyday life is so hurried and fast. Our lives are taken up with computers, iPads, smart phones – every conceivable means to avoid slow, deliberate human interaction and face-to-face conversation with real people. For me, teaching turns the clock back a hundred years. It’s just you and the students, talking about fundamental concepts in an ancient discipline – the law.


A Sense of Peace: “We have to learn how to be more peaceful”

Cynthia Poem Nguyen, who recently earned her UC San Diego Extension Professional Certificate in the Accelerated Paralegal program, has a noble goal: “I want to keep learning about how to create a more peaceful society.”

HER GOAL: "We can and should work together to make society better."

STUDENT PROFILE: Cynthia Nguyen, Professional Certificate in Accelerated Paralegal

She’s currently working with the ACLU’s San Diego branch, along with several UC San Diego students, on community-based research projects.

One such effort involves surveying residents of multi-ethnic neighborhoods about racial profiling along with rating respondents’ views on their dealings with police officers.

“The legal knowledge I gained from the paralegal program really helped me develop the confidence and the tools I’ve needed for this project,” said Nguyen, a 2006 UC Berkeley graduate in political science and rhetoric.

Likewise, her college studies in peace education has opened her eyes – and her mind.

“For me, the first step was learning how to communicate in a more non-judgmental and open-minded way,” she said. “I stopped seeing my classmates and others as being antagonistic towards me. I developed more of a sense of peace, a calmness of mind.”

Now attending San Diego City College, Nguyen hopes to earn her law degree and become a civil rights and international human rights lawyer.

“There are so many intelligent people in this world; we can and should work together to make society better,” she said. “We have to learn how to be more peaceful.”

Peace is one thing. Piece is another, as in piece of cake. Because cake decorating happens to be Nguyen’s other passion.

“Every time I pass by a cake or cookies, I want to decorate them,” she said with a laugh. “I’d like to make a living by decorating cakes, but that might be too much of a challenge.”

Learning the Truth About Cancer: An Ethicist’s Own Story

Truth-telling about cancer can be a precarious path, not only for patients who are told the awful truth, but also for physicians who must convey that truth.

Rebecca Dresser: "Truth-telling is complicated."

Rebecca Dresser: “Truth-telling is complicated.”

For Rebecca Dresser, a trained medical and legal ethicist, learning she had oral cancer some six years ago proved to be a life-changing experience, in ways she hadn’t anticipated.

“Truth-telling is complicated,” she said, reflecting on what she termed her own personal “diagnostic odyssey” that turned out to be both professional and personal.

“As a 12-year-old, I learned how frightening it can be when people don’t tell you the truth,” she said. “Then as a patient, I learned how frightening it is when they do tell you the truth.”

Dresser was the final speaker in a series of lectures themed on cancer, based on “The Emperor of All Maladies,” the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by cancer researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee.

A longtime professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Dresser told her personal story to a group gathered at Balboa Park’s Reuben H. Fleet Space Center on Wednesday, June 4.

Her presentation was based on her 2012 book, “Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer.”

Dresser, who describes herself as a member of what she calls the “remission society,” recalled how her father had died from cancer at age 39, when she was 12.

“Nobody ever told me or my younger brothers that he was dying or what was wrong, even though we sensed it was something bad,” she said. “Whenever we got up the courage to ask our mother, we would get these vague responses that were meant to assure us – but did not.”

She continued: “So this is the way I learned that people should tell the truth about serious illness. This is the way I learned that shielding children from bad news does them no good.”

That childhood experience ultimately inspired Dresser, who holds a law degree from Harvard, to pursue her career as a medical and legal ethicist.

“Knowing about a life-threatening diagnosis may be better than not knowing, but it’s terrible knowledge,” she said. “With it comes impossible treatment choices” – both for patients and physicians who treat them.

As for her own cancer experience, she underwent extensive chemotherapy, suffered severe weight loss and was forced to use a feeding tube for several months, which resulted in slightly slurred speech.

Amid countless stories of doctors who “display shocking insensitivity” and use “terse statements and evasive language,” Dresser said, the best response she’s heard from a physician obligated to convey bad news to a patient was simple and compassionate:

“Yes, it could be cancer. But if it is, we’ll be right there with you.”

Dresser’s appearance was co-presented by UC San Diego Extension and the Center for Ethics in Science and Technology.

After her talk, Dresser was interviewed by Ethics Center director Michael Kalichman, who revealed that he is a cancer patient himself. Last year, he underwent extensive chemotherapy and surgery.

“Welcome to the remission society!” said Dresser, as the two exchanged a high-five.

— John B.B. Freeman

How to Network with Purpose

By Jenna Durney, UC San Diego Graduate Student

In a job market where 70% of all jobs are found through networking, one phone call, one introduction, or one meeting can change everything, according to Camille Primm, award-winning author and Career Coach at UC San Diego Extenion’s Life/Work Center.

As a networking maven, Primm challenges professionals to change their negative perceptions about networking and consider it, instead, as a positive experience towards creating and nurturing relationships. “Networking requires uncovering a common interest, building a sense of community, and engaging in authentic conversations,” said Primm. She emphasizes that it is better to develop strong relationships with 20 people than superficial ones with 200.

Primm breaks down the networking process into a few simple steps: Relationship-building begins with conversation. To engage in and hold a conversation, she encourages people to open up with “small talk” topics (such as weather, sports, nice hand bag, etc.) and study up on current events. While small talk can help kindle a fire, she emphasizes that networking is more about listening to what people say than saying the right things. In conjunction with conversing, she recommends using active listening skills such as:

  • Making eye contact
  • Nodding
  • Smiling
  • Affirming
  • Asking questions

On March 26th, Primm facilitated an interactive networking workshop for attendees of UC San Diego Extension’s Career Week. She reviewed essential networking skills, and then put those new skills into practice by simulating a networking environment. She reminded attendees to use these keys to effective networking:

  1. Define who you are and why you are here (i.e. your brand)
  2. Give before you get
  3. Connect with people with whom you share interests and values
  4. Don’t ever keep score
Camille Primm, UCSD Extension Career Week 2014

Camille Primm explains, “networking requires uncovering a common interest, building a sense of community, and engaging in authentic conversations.”

Primm challenged attendees to take action by following up with the contacts they made that night. Other methods of taking action to broaden one’s network include volunteering, attending professional association meetings, or taking a class.

By applying these same skills to your own networking practice, you can move your connections from one-time meetings to long-lasting relationships. Primm recommends starting small and working to deepen relationships by taking small steps such as emailing someone an article that they might find interesting or a making a short 5-minute phone call.

Camille Primm is a UC San Diego Extension career coach, who also facilitates quarterly career clinics. Designed for professionals based on career stage, the clinics are free, quarterly offerings open to the public.

Sign up for a free Career Clinic, April 21-24, 2014:

Career Kick-Start

As paralegal to a criminal defense attorney, Sunny Elmore finds each day brings its own set of welcome challenges.


Student Profile
Sunny Elmore,
Certificate in Paralegal

“It’s my job to try to remain flexible and more importantly, to be extremely positive in whatever I need to do,” she said. “I bounce between discovery requests, calendaring, handling expenses, assisting in witness statements, drafting motions…everything.”

After graduating from UC San Diego in 2005 with a history degree, she sought to enter the legal field, though not as a lawyer. Five years later, she had earned a UC San Diego Extension Certificate in Paralegal, which “kick-started” her criminal law career.

“Besides what I learned, the biggest take-away was networking with the instructors and fellow students,” she said. “Through all the people I met there, that’s what got me to where I am now.”

Her first role was an internship in the offices of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, which began a series of upward career moves. After a year, Elmore was hired as a case assistant by the prestigious firm of Higgs Fletcher & Mack.

Seven months later, she became a paralegal for Gary S. Barthel, largely dealing with complex issues in military law. Two years after that, in 2013, Barthel launched his own Vista-based firm, with Elmore as his first and only employee.

“I’m right where I want to be,” she said. “At this stage of my career, I feel very confident and proficient about my paralegal skills.”

After the rigors of running a busy law firm, Elmore enjoys relaxing with her 7-year-old daughter, Harmony. “I’ll ask her how her day went and then she’ll ask me,” she said. “As much as possible, I want her to know what I do and the importance of knowing the law.”

From Diamonds to Chips

Not long ago, Nicole Loutsenhizer was a certified diamond grader, peering into the world’s most valuable gems.


Student Profile:
Nicole Loutsenhizer,
Certificate in Paralegal

Then, the bottom dropped out of the precious stones market and she was out of a job, one she was uniquely qualified for.

“It was a really good job until nobody bought diamonds,” she recalled. “I was six years out of college with zero experience doing anything else, so I was sure nobody would hire me.”

Now, three years later, she’s a computer analyst for Qualcomm and grateful for her UC San Diego Extension certificate that helped her move from diamonds to chips.

During the economic slump, she noticed that paralegals had weathered the storm. She promptly enrolled in the “highest-rated program I could find” – UC San Diego Extension’s Professional Paralegal Certificate program.

Said Loutsenhizer, a San Diego native who grew up in San Marcos: “I did my research, so I knew it was the right decision.”

Certificate in hand and determined to enter the paralegal field, she applied to more than 100 companies. Based on that project, she was hired by Qualcomm as a legal contract analyst. Soon, she was promoted to her current role as a computer analyst.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park,” she said, “but getting my paralegal certificate really prepared me for what I’m doing now.”


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