West Virginia University is ranked 18th in the Military Times’ “Best for Vets” list for 2013 but Jerry McCarthy, WVU’s interim veterans advocate, thinks the best is still to come.
“We have a pretty good selection of programs and if someone looks at some of the stuff we’re doing, it would be pretty hard to say, ‘Hey, WVU doesn’t deserve to be ranked there,’ ” McCarthy said. “But we’ve got some things in the works that I think will lift that ranking even higher in the future, and, more importantly help us reach our goal of becoming the most military-friendly school in the country.”
WVU was one of more than 650 schools that responded to a Military Times survey which consisted of nearly 150 questions. The survey results demonstrated schools’ widespread efforts to accommodate vets and active-duty service members. McCarthy, who submitted WVU’s paperwork, believes this is the first time the University has been considered for the Military Times ranking. “It has been named to G.I.Jobs’ list of “military friendly schools for the past four years.
“This recognition is a testament to the efforts and dedication of everyone at West Virginia University who works with our student veterans, service members, and dependents,” he said. “We have accomplished more in the past few months than I ever expected.”
And there’s more to come, according to McCarthy.
One of his most recent initiatives was creating and securing grant money from the WV Higher Education Policy Commission for the Mountaineer to Mentor program. The program pairs new student veterans coming to WVU with other student vets who have successfully made the transition. It will also pair new student veterans with a faculty or staff member who will serve as a mentor. Over the course of the year, the Veterans Office has scheduled six programs to enrich the academic experience for the vets.
More than 800 veterans, military personnel or their dependents are currently studying at WVU, including 291 new student vets who were admitted this fall.
“We just established the Mountaineer to Mentor program in the fall and we’ve built a good roster of veteran mentors and mentors from WVU faculty and staff,” McCarthy said. “I think this will be a great service for veterans.”
In the future, WVU will announce a formal drill policy that will allow students who are members of the armed forces to “make up tests and assignments that they may have missed during the semester if the student was called up for military training; and if missing the coursework will not irreversibly impact the students’ ability to master the subject matter in question within the terms of the semester,” according to a draft of the policy.
Also, WVU is exploring ways to best integrate all veteran services into an area on campus called the WVU Military and Veterans Service Center. The Center would serve as a one-stop shop for veterans and include classroom space and coordinators to assist with benefits and paperwork. It would also offer academic and psychological counseling and serve as a meeting place for student veterans.
The new initiatives are an expansion of previously established programs and policies that have helped WVU gain a national reputation for accommodating veteran students and job-seekers in recent years.
The University established a veterans’ advocate in the Office of Financial Aid and adopted veteran-friendly classes tailored to vets’ interests and needs. It also created a network of connections all over campus to serve as resources for vets. Over the years, the University’s plans have expanded to not only help the transition to college life but to also help veterans looking for jobs.
Adventure WV serves as an outdoor orientation for first-year students at WVU; the Boeing Corp. underwrites a special Veterans Adventure WV session so veterans can take the program at no cost. A high percentage of WVU’s vets have taken advantage of the opportunity and formed new bonds with fellow vets.
Also, WVU’s Division of Human Resources aggressively pursues outreach opportunities to connect employers with prospective veteran employees in the area. Human Resources leads the West Virginia Veterans’ Employment Initiative group, which serves as a clearinghouse for veterans issues. The group, which includes state agencies, discusses and shares ideas on how best to connect veterans with resources. The group’s main goal is to assist veterans in reintegrating into civilian life as a student or employee.
WVU also expanded its Yellow Ribbon Program to include graduate programs in the School of Public Health, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. These colleges have funded 100 percent of a student’s portion of out-of-state tuition for the 2012-13 school year. The School of Nursing has funded 75 percent of out-of-state tuition as part of the program.
The Yellow Ribbon program is an extension of the 9/11 GI Bill that pays all in-state tuition and fees at public colleges and university for eligible students. WVU has taken part in the Yellow Ribbon program for undergraduate out-of-state students for years, but this is the first year that the University has offered it to graduate students.
With these initiatives in place, McCarthy thinks WVU will soon achieve its goal of being the most military-friendly campus in the U.S.
“We’re not just content to be ahead of the curve,” McCarthy said. “We want to be the leaders. It’s an exciting time to be here and be part of all of the things that are happening on campus for veterans.”
To see the Military Times’ story, with a link to its rankings, see: http://militarytimes.com/jobs/best-for-vets/military-best-for-vets-colleges-2013-main-110812/
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CONTACT: Jerry McCarthy, WVU interim Veterans Advocate