Veterans Center

Meet the Staff

Derek Abbey Portrait
Derek Abbey
Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center Interim Director

As Interim Director of the SDSU Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, Derek oversees the services provided to all military-connected students at SDSU. This includes the Center which serves as the hub for all military-connected student support services on campus. Additionally, it includes all aspects of the military benefit programs for SDSU's undergraduate and graduate veterans, active duty military, reservists, and dependents.

Derek spent a career in the Marine Corps before retiring in 2014. He has committed his life to serving those that serve in multiple ways as a practitioner and academic. His research fields include military accessing higher education and adult development theory. Additionally, he is involved with multiple nonprofit organizations. Most notably is the BentProp Project, an organization committed to locating and ultimately repatriating Americans missing in action (MIA) from previous conflicts.

Todd Kennedy Portrait
Todd Kennedy
Military & Veterans Program Administrator

As the Military & Veterans Program Administrator, Todd oversees the daily operation of the Barron Veterans Center; represents the University at various regional, state, and national venues; is responsible for the implementation of new military/veteran support programming; and is an advocate, adviser, and troubleshooter for administrative and transition challenges faced by the military student body. He came to San Diego State University following a 22 year career in the United States Marine Corps and completed his undergraduate degree in History (summa cum laude) in 2016. He is a past-president of the Student Veteran Organization at SDSU; maintains involvement in a number of volunteer and philanthropic ventures; and stays committed to the overall academic success, professional development, and personal growth of today's military and veteran students.

Holly Shaffner Portrait
Holly Shaffner
Military Liaison Officer

Holly Shaffner joined the Barron Veterans Center team in December 2015 and she is a recent graduate of SDSU San Diego State University earning her degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations. She retired from the United States Coast Guard after serving 24 years in operational and staff assignments in both enlisted and officer ranks. Holly is responsible for outreach with local military bases and the veteran community in the San Diego area. She also serves as the campus military liaison for CSU California State University and SDSU “Troops to College” admissions programs which includes tracking the retention of veterans admitted under these programs. As a student, she was involved in the SDSU Student Veteran Organization and off campus she is integrated into the community serving active duty, veterans and families. Holly can be contacted at or (619) 594-0834.

Vanessa Quiñones Portrait
Vanessa Quiñones
Veterans Coordinator

Vanessa started working in the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center in fall 2016 where she assists San Diego State University veterans, active duty, reserve and military spouses/dependent students achieve their educational goals and plans various campus based military-related functions and events. She comes from a military family - father Retired Senior Chief in the US Navy and brother a former US Marine Corps Sergeant, and is passionate about her work assisting all military connected students. She is currently pursing her undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Vanessa can be contacted at or (619) 594-0496.

Jose Esparza Portrait
Jose Esparza
Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center Assistant

Jose Esparza has served in the United States Navy from 2002 to 2008 and is currently a Naval Reservist stationed at Naval Air Station, North Island. During his active duty enlistment, he served as a Master-at-Arms performing a variety of military law enforcement functions while stationed overseas in Sasebo, Japan and aboard the USS Ronald Reagan ported in San Diego, CA. Following his separation from active service, Jose attended the University of California at San Diego completing his bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 2014. Jose began working at the Baron Veteran’s Center in 2015 where he assists San Diego State University veterans, active duty, reserve and military dependent students with their education benefits available through both the US and California Departments of Veteran Affairs.

Brittany Field Portrait
Brittany Field
Troops to Engineers Program Coordinator

Brittany is the Troops to Engineers program coordinator at SDSU. Her mission is to provide internship opportunities for current and graduate students in the engineering field, support for students in transition from military to civilian/student life, and support with resume and cover letter writing. Her goal is to place all student-veterans that are seeing career assistance into paid internships throughout their schooling and full-time jobs upon graduation. Brittany is a Navy veteran, serving from 2007 until 2011, and graduated with her undergraduate degree in Communications in May 2015. She can be contacted at or (619) 594-5849.

Elisa East
Troops to Engineers Program Coordinator

Elisa is the Troops to Engineers program coordinator at SDSU. Her mission is to provide a successful transition from military service to higher education onto civilian careers by providing employer-led professional development workshops, tours and hiring events. Her goal is to provide support to 100% of SDSU student veterans seeking career assistance into career-enhancing paid internships and full-time employment upon graduation. Elisa is an Army veteran and an alumna of SDSU.

Ryan Morris Portrait
Ryan Morris
VetSuccess on Campus Counselor, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Ryan graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and from Fresno State University with a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2007. While attending Fresno State, he was a member of the Chi Sigma Iota international honor society for professional counselors and completed an internship in Fresno State’s Workability IV program. Ryan started working for the U.S. Department of Veterans in February 2008 as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and conducted transition assistance at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton from 2009 through 2011 for service members medically separating out of the military. For his efforts, he was recognized with the Employee of the Quarter Award within the VA San Diego Regional Office in 2010. Ryan also worked as an IDES Counselor at Naval Medical Center San Diego from 2011-2016 where he provided transitional services to those service members that were medically separating. He was assigned as the VetSuccess on Campus counselor aboard San Diego State University in early 2016 where he assists the campus' military affiliated students with navigating their benefits, options, and opportunities.

Ryan's office on campus is located in the Barron Veterans Center (Student Services West building, room 1661) and he can be reached at or by calling (619) 594-2444.