CARSON CITY (WNC) —— Western Nevada College was singled out and applauded for its work with veterans during the Disabled American Veterans National Convention headlined by President Barack Obama on Aug. 10 in Orlando, Fla.
WNC was also among 250 community colleges and universities that the president credited for making tremendous strides to meet specific needs of present-day veterans, and for adopting the “8 Keys to Success” initiative. The eight steps endorsed by the president encourage schools to welcome and encourage veterans to attain college degrees, certificates, credentials and licenses so they can secure jobs in high-growth areas of the economy.
More specifically, the administration singled out WNC at the conference for its efforts in helping service members transition from the military into higher education.
“At Western Nevada College, for example, the school hosts a ‘veterans orientation’ to make sure returning service members begin college on the right track, and that every veteran has a counselor assigned to work with him or her on adjusting to the classroom environment, performance expectations, personal challenges and program completion.”
Eric K. Shinseki, secretary of Veterans Affairs, lauded WNC and other colleges and universities for their commitment to veterans.
“This commitment made by colleges and universities will help veterans better transition from military service into the classroom, graduate and find a good job to help strengthen our economy,” Shinseki said. “Given the opportunity, veterans will succeed because they possess exceptional character, team-building skills, discipline and leadership.”
WNC President Carol Lucey said veterans are one of many special student groups that the college identifies that need a little extra tender loving care.
“We see ourselves as responsible for creating an environment on campus that assures the academic success of all students,” Lucey said. “We have also always done our best to protect our student veterans and to assure their success.
“We were pleased to be applauded by the president in his introduction of the ‘8 Keys to Success’ for student veterans. Because the ‘8 Keys’ so closely parallel what we do for so many groups of particularly vulnerable new college students, it was easy for us to fully adopt this program very early on.”
Word of WNC’s national recognition for working with veterans reached a Nevada System of Higher Education official as well.
“This is a very nice feather in WNC’s hat — their work with veterans has been remarkable,” said Crystal Abba, NSHE’s vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, in an email.
Specific commitments that WNC has made to veterans include a new Veterans Resource Center on campus, a veterans club, orientation and counseling services, as well as outreach events.
“We on the VA side could not ask for a more committed and willing partner in this endeavor,” said Troy Stormoen, of the Veterans Outreach in Reno.
Kevin Burns, the college’s adviser to the Student Veterans of Western Nevada College Club, said the goal is to ensure student success for veterans as they adjust tp their separation from service to civilian life, then the transition from civilian life to academic life.
“Our mission is to do anything we can to help any of that,” Burns said. “They are educated on what their benefits actually are and where they have to go to get them.”
Nearly one million veterans, members of the service and their families have received benefits to attend college through the VA’s Post-9/11 GI Bill. Burns said those benefits now allow veterans to receive in-state tuition rates for up to two years after leaving the service.
Burns, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1983, said starting this fall, veterans will be offered cohort classes in remedial English and a college preparatory class (EPY 150). Student veterans also will have four mentors, including Veterans Club president Timothy Galluzi, available to help them.
“We’re hoping what this does is improve student success rates and give them a good foundation for the rest of their careers,” Burns said.
Galluzi estimates that 60 of the 300 veterans attending WNC are members of the club. “It allows them to hang out with other vets,” he said. “There are certain things vets understand about each other that people who haven’t served wouldn’t understand.”
Galluzi spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He said the club’s motto is “Veterans Helping Veterans,” which complements the selfless principle “Leave no man behind” that they are taught in the service.
The “8 Keys to Success” that Obama referred to at the convention are as follows:
Creating a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
Ensuring consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
Implementing an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
Coordinating and centralizing campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
Collaborating with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
Using a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
Providing comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
Developing systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.