Bolstered by the first-year VetSuccess on Campus program and all-around quality service, MTSU once again is considered one of the top “Military Friendly Schools” in the country on the 2013 list announced by G.I. Jobs magazine.
It marks the third consecutive year the university has made the list. The 2013 Military Friendly Schools list can be found at www.militaryfriendlyschools.com.
This year’s list, announced Sept. 18, recognizes the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the nation that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members, veterans and their spouses as students and ensure their success on campus.
“MTSU is truly a military-friendly campus,” said Cathy Kirchner, university registrar. “As the first school in Tennessee with a VetSuccess representative on campus, MTSU offers more services for those with military service and their families than ever before.”
This fall, MTSU has 1,005 students, including dependents, using GI benefits and at least 1,040 students on campus who have military service or are dependents using GI benefits, Kirchner said. For fall 2011, MTSU had 1,038 students receiving GI benefits.
“We’re proud to be on the list, and proud that so many of our veterans choose MTSU as their university home,” said Dr. Deb Sells, vice president of student affairs. “We’ve made significant progress in identifying and responding to their needs and look forward to finding new ways to support them in the coming years.”
Full-time staff members Ray Howell and Gerry Craig and six student workers assist veterans.
“A school’s inclusion on the 2013 list of ‘Military Friendly Schools’ shows commitment to providing a supportive environment for military students,” said Sean Collins, vice president at Victory Media and director for G.I. Jobs.
Kirchner said MTSU administrative staff and faculty have worked behind the scenes for years to address the needs of students with military service. In 2011, a university standing committee, the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, was formed.
The committee comprises one faculty member from each academic college; one representative each from the University College Advising Center, admissions, business office, counseling services registrar/Veterans Affairs office and ROTC; a representative from the students’ Blue Raider American Veterans Organization and faculty adviser; two veterans memorial committee representatives; and one student appointed by the Student Government Association.
The VetSuccess on Campus program is a collaborative effort between MTSU and the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the purpose of providing a supportive, on-campus environment where students with military service may gather to obtain assistance and peer support.
Heather Conrad, the VetSuccess on Campus counselor at MTSU now in Keathley University Center Room 124, meets one-on-one with veterans to find solutions to problems, answer questions and to connect them to needed services in the community such as the Veterans Recovery Center or the VA Medical Center, Kirchner said.
“Vocational counseling and testing is an important service offered by our Vet Success rep to assist veterans to choose a VA program and MTSU degree program so that veterans will graduate and enter a career that meets their interests,” Kirchner said. “It’s one more way that we can support our students along the academic path toward graduation.”
Leaders at the national level encourage mentoring and tutoring programs for veterans at each VetSuccess school, Kirchner said.
“This is a project we will be working on in the months ahead,” she said. “In fact, representatives from VetSuccess schools across the country visit via conference call each month to share ideas and discuss campus initiatives. This gives us a great support network with our colleagues from across the country.”
Kirchner said some of the most recent initiatives include scheduled workshops on “How to be a Successful Veteran” and “Getting Ready for Spring 2013 Early Registration.”
For students receiving GI benefits, faculty note their academic progress in the MTSU Academic Alert self-service portal at least twice during each term. This past summer, members of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee participated in new student orientation.
In October, the Veterans Affairs staff will move to KUC Room 128, next door to the VetSuccess’ Conrad, as part of the Military Center, Kirchner said. The change will create a one-stop shop for MTSU students with military service.
“We anxiously anticipate the opening of the new Veterans’ Lounge and what we currently are calling the ‘Military Veterans’ one-stop shop’ on campus,” said Dr. Tony Johnston, School of Agribusiness and Agriscience professor and chairman of the Military Committee.
“We’ve got a dedicated group of veteran and veteran-supporting faculty and staff on campus who have done an awful lot for our veteran students,” Johnston added. “I work with a great group of people on this.”
For information on MTSU’s services for veteran students, visit www.mtsu.edu/military and www.mtsu.edu/records/vets.php or call 615-898-2600. To contact Conrad and the VetSuccess on Campus program, call 615-898-2974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)