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In This Issue

       

Center for student vets at WSU sets ambitious goals to serve those who served their country

Funding support will help the center keep up with growing demand

Cody Herrin, right, president of the Student Veterans Organization at Wichita State, visits with fellow vet Robert Fleetwood in the Military and Veteran Student Center.
Cody Herrin, right, president of the Student Veterans Organization at Wichita State, visits with fellow vet Robert Fleetwood in the Military and Veteran Student Center.

When classes are in session at Wichita State, every seat inside the Military and Veteran Student Center in Lindquist Hall usually is filled. Coffee brews on a never-ending cycle, and students wait in line to use the personal computers and the printer.

Since opening on Veterans Day in 2013, the center for WSU students who have served in the military has seen phenomenal growth in usage, says Sarah Sell, the center’s director and a first sergeant in the Kansas Air National Guard.

“This is their home on campus,” says Sell, who works in the Office of Student Success. “They come here and there’s no question that they’re among friends. What we’re finding is that veterans do much better when they’re in an environment of like-minded people who understand their experiences and mindset.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP
Interested in supporting the work being done by the WSU Military and Veterans Student Center? Here are just a few funding suggestions. Donors will be recognized with their names on a plaque at the center.

$35,000 –
Endow a scholarship for student veterans
$5,000 - $25,000 – 
Establish a current scholarship
$10,000 – 
Support a mentoring program
$10,000 – 
Fund a tutoring program
$5,000 – 
Provide training for peer-to-peer PTSD support groups
$2,000 – 
Help create a textbook lending library
$500 – 
Buy graduation cords for student veterans

Now that a strong demand has been demonstrated, Sell and other university officials are working to ramp up services to help veterans feel comfortable on campus, learn effectively and get their degrees. The altruistic motive to serve veterans is strong, Sell says, but it also makes good financial sense for any university.

“Vets get free money to go to college,” she says. “They can go anywhere they want with these benefits. We want them to come here and stay here, so what are we doing to help them succeed here?”

Veterans usually are wired to succeed, says Cody Herrin, president of the Student Veterans Organization at Wichita State. Their experiences have shaped them into driven, resourceful and disciplined individuals, often with leadership abilities. At the same time, they face many challenges and distractions.

“Most veterans have been away from school for a long time,” says Herrin, a sophomore pursuing a pre-med course of study at Wichita State. “They need significant help with the transition — relearning how to study, use the library, research online, and just get to know the ins and outs of college life.”

They also crave the camaraderie that many had in the military, says Herrin, who served four years in active duty and 10 years in federal service.

“Most people on campus have no clue what we’ve been through,” he says. “The center is a place where we can let our guard down. There’s trust here.”

Sell estimates that 10 percent of WSU students are military veterans, but until recently, the university didn’t track veterans as a demographic unit. That changed a year ago when the school began asking students to self-identify as veterans. The center gets about 1,000 visits a month, Sell says.

The university provides a small budget for the center’s operations as well as space in Lindquist Hall, a central location on campus. Sell is working with the WSU Foundation to identify funding opportunities for those who want to help the center succeed.

Among programs and services veterans’ needs are these:

  • Mentoring program. A “rucksack to backpack” program that pays mentors to provide one-on-one assistance to student veterans.
  • Scholarship programs to help veterans complete their final year or two of college. Most vets receive benefits for up to four years, but, like traditional students, many need more than four years to earn a degree. “A lot of students are killing themselves taking too many hours every semester with the hope of getting done in four years,” says Sell. “The problem with that is they are setting themselves up for failure because they’re taking on more than they can handle.”
  • Vet-to-vet tutoring. Tutoring of veterans has proven to be more successful when other veterans provide the help. Money is needed to hire tutors.
  • A Green Zone program that trains faculty and staff to help provide a welcoming and helpful environment for student veterans.
  • Textbook lending program. Although veterans receive benefits to buy textbooks, bureaucratic delays often leave them without the funds they need at the beginning of each semester. Money is needed to buy textbooks that students can borrow until their benefits arrive.
  • Graduation cords. Money is needed to buy red, white and blue cords that veterans can wear for commencement ceremonies.
 

Support this Cause Online

 

circle arrow To learn more about how you can help the WSU Military and Veteran Student Center achieve its goals, contact Keith Pickus, WSU Foundation vice president for corporate and foundation relations, at 316-978-7791 or keith.pickus@wichita.edu.