GV fortifies relationship with military-connected students

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GV fortifies relationship with military-connected students

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Olivia Fellows, Editorial Intern

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As U.S. citizens, we rely on the voluntary service of fewer than one percent of the U.S. population to protect us, our democratic principles and our way of life. Serving in the military is seen by many academic institutions as an incredible sacrifice of courage, and Grand Valley State University sees this no differently. GVSU faculty and staff hold military-connected students in a high regard, and there are many resources on campus were created specifically for helping those students achieve their education goals.

At GVSU, there are a total of 735 military-connected students — 397 of these are military spouses or dependents (120 are children of military-connected students), and 338 of which are current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Similar to other adult or non-traditional students, military-connected students tend to be older with family, employment and financial obligations. Because not all who served or are serving in the military do not consider themselves ‘veterans’ for a variety of reasons, many are opting for the use of the term ‘military-connected student.’ The term ‘military dependents’ is used to describe the spouse and children of someone who serves or served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Grand Valley Veterans Network (GVVN), which consists of university faculty and staff, ensures that students can get help in several important departments. GVVN shares information and provides training to GVSU faculty and staff regarding military culture, unique transition and related challenges and where to find resources. Steven Lipnicki, GVSU’s Associate Dean of Students, said that one of the most difficult issues for some military-connected students is the process of transitioning from service-member to civilian and to student, and that the GVSU Veteran’s Network is there to help students with that adjustment.

“The military provides the basic necessities and trains individuals to focus on the mission, the team and the customs and traditions of the military,” Lipnicki said, “Departing from these norms and readjusting to civilian life while trying to get an education can be challenging. GVSU hosts a certified veteran services officer to assist with the Veteran’s Association (VA) claims, insurance, and other non-educational benefits, and we also provide enrollment certification for Post 9/11 GI Bill and other VA programs and assistance with military tuition assistance programs.”

Other resources GVSU provides for military-connected students are partnerships with GVSU’s Student Veterans of America chapter (LakerVets), Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) program assigns trained peer advisors to new students serving as a “battle buddy” to assist with the transition from military to student roles and connecting to available resources, and the Student Veteran’s Lounge in the Kirkhof Center.

Tim Marroquin, director of GVSU’s TRIO Veterans Upward Bound, said that it’s important for the success of military-connected students that universities stay committed to them. Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) is a federally-funded program through the Department of Education with a student-centered commitment to veteran opportunity and access in successfully pursuing, or completing postsecondary education.

“Having access to resources is important for student veterans, as it is for all underrepresented and/or underserved students, in that it provides for additional targeted support that fosters a sense of belonging, competency, and self-efficacy,” Marroquin said. “The practice and programming of VUB has its foundation in student veteran research, issues and best practices, and all services, supplies and materials are free to the participant.”

The Veterans Upward Bound program and others at GVSU help military-connected students stay connected and positive about their education. At GVSU, there are a number of scholarships available to help military-connected students pursue their degrees. Endowed scholarships available include the Frederick S. Singer Memorial Veterans Endowed Scholarship, WGVU-LZ Michigan Scholarship Endowment and the Lt. William Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship Endowment.

In addition to ongoing initiatives, at GVSU’s Veterans Day Breakfast Celebration, President Mantella announced that the university intends to create a new center with a full-time manager to lead the institution’s efforts to improve student success and support for those who serve or are serving in the military. Steven Lipnicki said that there are new plans and projects that are being explored, and that the faculty and staff at GVSU will always be looking to students for new ways to help.

“Based on feedback from our students, we are exploring a new location for the Student Veterans Lounge that is currently located on a second floor balcony in Kirkhof Center,” Lipnicki said. “Parameters for the new location include a larger, quieter location, that is securable and able to serve as an ideal place for students to study, chat, or chill. We are in the process of finalizing the details for the new position and evaluating potential spaces for the new center and are excited about the new plans.”