Candice Matelski is still getting used to the fact that she’s typically the oldest student in her classes at West Virginia University and the only mom. But when it comes to being a veteran, Matelski, a WVU student pursuing a graduate degree in speech pathology, feels right at home.
“I’m happy I came here,” said Matelski, who served in the U.S. Air Force and earned an undergraduate degree from East Carolina University. “There’s a lot of support for veterans at WVU and in West Virginia.”
For its efforts, WVU has earned mention on G.I.Jobs’ list of “military friendly schools” for the third straight year.
“We have hundreds of veterans employed on our campus and veteran students,” said Trisha Gyurke, director of Employment Services. “With this honor from G.I.Jobs and other initiatives, we’ll continue to grow our veteran presence at WVU.”
WVU uses several platforms to recruit prospective vet employees, Gyurke said. It is partnered with the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces to advertise jobs to vets across the country and around the world. The next step, Gyurke said, is developing a mobile app so that soldiers can access critical information on WVU and Morgantown, such as health care, employment opportunities, family and social networks and education, wherever they are deployed.
Also, WVU’s Human Resources Division offers a summit each year to further make outreach to veterans a priority on campus and off. WVU has hosted two “Veterans’ Summits,” which offer networking opportunities for veterans at WVU and in the community and guest speakers on a variety of topics including WVU research related to veterans’ health. This year’s event is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Click below to hear Inside WVU on the University's commitment to veterans and other ways it has honored them.
Along with the events, the University offers a host of programs and support systems to help veterans make the transition to being a student, including special course sections, faculty contacts and a veterans’ payment plan. WVU participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, a program designed to help students with tuition and fees associated with education programs that may exceed the Post 9/11 GI Bill tuition benefit.
In Terry Miller, The University has an active veterans advocate whose office helps solve financial aid and VA education benefit issues, class absences due to military responsibilities, deployment issues and other matters. A graduate assistant in Miller’s office, Matelski has helped revamp and update the website, an important resource, particularly for prospective students.
“Looking for a school that supports veterans is more important than a lot of vets realize when they’re thinking about going back to school,” Matelski said. “I’m a little biased but I think we do a better job than other universities at making sure the best information is visible on our site.”
Click below to hear veteran and chemistry senior Jake Lambuth discuss his military background and his experience choosing and attending WVU.
Like Matelski, Jake Lambuth, a Houston native, enjoys being part of WVU’s vets community as both a student and employee. A senior majoring in chemistry, Lambuth transitioned from active duty in the U.S. Navy to a sergeant’s rank in the U.S. Army reserves. Lambuth said many of his fraternity brothers in Tau Kappa Epsilon are veterans and he’s made other connections with vets through WVU’s Student Veterans Group and his job as a photographer for WVU University Relations/News.
“There’s a large community of veterans here—more than I thought,” Lambuth said.
Lambuth said he compares notes with veteran friends at other institutions, which makes him appreciate being at WVU.
“I hear from several friends who have nothing but complaints paperwork not getting done or transitional issues,” he said. “I have two friends who did not transition well they felt there was no help for them and they returned to active duty. They didn’t feel like they were meant to be there. I have absolutely no complaints.”
The welcoming atmosphere is in keeping with WVU’s 2020 Strategic Plan for the Future, which emphasizes diversity and inclusion. WVU’s goal is to attract more veteran employees and recruit and retain more veteran students, an initiative of WVU President Jim Clements.
Following a visit to Morgantown and the WVU campus from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in 2010, Clements was selected to attend the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference this past spring.
He was one of 39 participants for the forum, a U.S. Department of Defense program for some of the nation’s top leaders who were interested in increasing their knowledge of the military and national defense issues.
Matelski appreciates WVU’s commitment to veterans and hopes to see it grow in the future. The campus already has around 1,000 veteran students and employees.
“This is the third year in a row we’ve received the (G.I.Jobs) designation. Other schools are also asking the same questions and starting their own initiatives,” she said. “I’d like the goal at WVU not to just be a school that supports veterans but to be the best in supporting veterans. I want us to set a standard for others to follow.”
CONTACT: Patricia W. Gyurke; WVU Division of Human Resources
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