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Spotlighting Mercy's Veterans: U.S. Marine Corporal Viviana DeCohen '16, M.S. '18, Director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Services

President Hall and Viviana DeCohen

When Corporal Vivana DeCohen left the U.S. Marine Corps in 1987 after serving four years during the Grenada conflict, she struggled to find work. Her college career had been cut short when the Reagan administration drastically cut educational scholarships. 

DeCohen persisted in her dream of an education, and eventually her military service qualified her for Mercy’s McNair Scholars program. It was a proud day when she graduated from Mercy College with her bachelor’s in Behavioral Science, later earning a master’s in health service management.

The Mount Vernon, N.Y., resident was recently named the director of the New York State Division of Veterans' Services by Governor Hochul. She previously served as the Commissioner of the local Veterans Service Agency and is Associate Pastor at Mount Vernon Heights Congregational Church. Her days are filled with dedication to veterans, overseeing volunteers who ensure former service people are receiving what they need: food, shelter, clothing, education, employment, and, as she puts it, “a little motivation.”

Earlier this month DeCohen was among 27 women veterans named by the Department of Veterans Affairs as 2021’s Women Trailblazers. “The VA recognized my work with veteran students at Mercy College,” she said, noting her role in developing programs that support once-struggling students seeking their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

DeCohen was also presented with a banner from the Town of Eastchester as a “Hometown Hero,” and her story appeared in a Westchester Magazine feature profiling seven veterans of military service. “I am always honored to return to Mercy College, the place that created a door for me where there was a wall,” DeCohen said. “I would not be formally working with veterans had it not been for Mercy College.”