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From G.I. Bill® user to university veteran services director

photo of Trisha Ruiz

Veteran education generally brings to mind the GI Bill® and Texas’ Hazlewood Act education benefits used to attend college. However, there’s more to veteran education than just using these benefits to attend classes and programs. Universities, their courses and programs must be approved and certified for veteran education benefits use. Students must also be certified with the VA, so they can use their education benefits to pursue higher education. There are also rules about how those benefits can be used.

Army veteran Trisha Ruiz, pictured, is experienced in all of these aspects of veteran education. Coming out of service, Ruiz, from Rock Springs, Texas, used her G.I. Bill® benefits for her education at the University of Texas in San Antonio (UTSA). There, she began work-study in the Veteran Certification Office.

At the UTSA certification office, Ruiz worked for Andrea Watts, who at the time, was UTSA’s lead School Certifying Official at the time.

“Because of the sheer number of veterans using benefits at UTSA, each work-study was essential,” said Watts who is now part of TVC’s Veterans Education Department.  “They did basically everything a School Certifying Official did on a daily basis, except actually certifying enrollments to the VA. Trisha was exceptional at the job. She always kept a level head when students or parents didn’t understand the rules of using VA educational benefits or the sometimes exasperating situations that developed when dealing with the VA.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree and having years of valuable work experience as a student at UTSA, Ruiz accepted a position as a School Certifying Official at University of Houston – Clear Lake.

“We (TVC Education Department) helped her during her time as certifying official at UH-Clear Lake when getting her school’s approval processed,” said Watts.

While at UH-Clear Lake, she also continued her education and graduated with her Doctorate in December 2022.

Her further education furthered her career. Currently, Ruiz is Senior Executive Director of the Veteran Success Center at University of St. Thomas in Houston (–veterans-education-benefits/ ). Additionally, Ruiz was elected to be the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators (NAVPA) Board of Directors as Education Co-Chair. (–veterans-education-benefits/ )

“Trisha used her educational benefits to further her education and reach her goals. As Director at University of St. Thomas, Dr. Ruiz is paying it forward as she guides her veterans and their families through their educational endeavors,” said Watts.

As TVC is the State Approving Agency for veteran education benefits, it continues to work with Ruiz in her Directorship at University of St. Thomas.

“Trisha worked for me as my work-study when I was lead School Certifying Official at UT-San Antonio. We have remained friends and I’ve enjoyed watching her grow throughout her career and education,” said Watts.

Need assistance with veteran education benefits? Connect with the TVC Education Department. .

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at

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