The most successful institutions do more than grant certificates and degrees. When schools go above and beyond awarding degrees and certificates to U.S. military service members, their families and veterans, this extra initiative opens up new opportunities for veterans and employers alike.
Education is power, regardless of where you earn your credentials. Once you have earned an education, no one can take it from you. What we are attempting to understand is what schools do “above and beyond” awarding a degree or certificate to U.S. military service members, their families and veteran higher education students. What activities can colleges and universities embrace to engage their military communities? What I discovered is a genuine enthusiasm to work with the military community, which I am excited to share with you. My day job transports my entire education team face-to- face with thousands of service members and their families weekly. I have determined from the many conversations I’ve personally conducted and witnessed that a veteran’s No.1 concern before taking on the ever-so-important mission of higher education is, “How will this education result in a well-paying job?” There is no easy way to answer that question. I have been privileged to engage in conversations with passionate people working with service members, their families and veterans attending universities and colleges coast to coast.
No.1 concern before taking on the ever-so-important mission of higher education is, “How will this education result in a well-paying job?
These committed individuals include educators, administrators and staff who are doing everything in their power to help these special students engage in and complete the right education to reach their dream careers. I have identified many college and university practices that current and future student-veterans may find well worth exploring.
The right education results in the best future. I selected the most veteran-oriented schools through research based on certain keywords: military, college, jobs, career and education. These search words yielded a diverse group of higher education institutions not typically grouped together. They included Florida National University in Miami, Fla.; Grantham University in Kansas City, Mo.; Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas; and Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, Mass. We do not see a list of institutions such as these advertising together in any higher education marketing venue as military-friendly, but they have made commitments to service members and veterans that are well worth writing about.
In my many and endless conversations with school officials, one comment left me speechless – the school official actually thought we had lost the phone connection because I stopped talking. Dr. Ryan Van Dusen, Associate Director of Military and Veterans Programs for Texas Tech University and a former soldier in the U.S. Army, said, “You can’t be too military-friendly.” That statement by Van Dusen left me in stunned silence, which rarely happens. The most basic question that can be asked of a college or university is how it works to ensure that an education at that institution can result in a well-paying job. The answer, on the other hand, is much more complex; there is no simple list of tasks an institution can check off.
However, I did witness a common element among the successful institutions; they are all characterized by the passion to do more than grant certificates and degrees.
The principle of “you can’t be too military-friendly” became clear as a guiding force and defining characteristic of the following schools:
Grantham University (GU) was founded in 1951 by World War II veteran Donald Grantham, who wanted to help fellow veterans improve their lives through higher education. Grantham University is a 100-percent online university serving a highly diverse student population. I spoke with Johanna Altland, Grantham University’s Director of Communications, and she spoke at length about educator obligations. To paraphrase Altland, the best way we can be advocates for veterans is by educating them to be career-ready, which is why we are all here in the first place. Grantham takes a multifaceted approach to student-veteran success. The university uses many internal and external initiatives to pave the way for future employment of veterans and service members. First, it educates its student-veterans; second, it prepares its student-veterans for employment in the civilian workforce. The university takes this model one step forward, smoothing the path for its students in the civilian job market by taking the time to educate employers on the value of hiring veterans.
This provides businesses with veteran recruitment strategies that benefit the veteran as well as the potential employer. The internal and external initiatives educate and prepare Grantham’s staff, their students and potential employers. The cement that I believe holds this model together is twofold and includes Grantham Pathways, a virtual online job portal and a series of free e-books called Military-to-Civilian Transition Guide. This series comprises five books: Entering the Civilian Workforce – Your Journey Starts Here!, Choose a Career You’ll Love and Never Work a Day in Your Life, Professional Branding That Gets You Noticed, Make the “Call Pile” With Attention-Grabbing Resumes and Cover Letters, and How to Ace the Interview … and Stand Out From the Crowd.
Throughout my research, Grantham’s strategy to educate and prepare emerged as an obvious theme of delivering student-veteran successes. The internal and external initiatives educate and prepare Grantham’s staff, their students and potential employers. The cement that I believe holds this model together is twofold and includes Grantham Pathways, a virtual online job portal and a series of free e-books called Military-to-Civilian Transition Guide. This series comprises five books: Entering the Civilian Workforce – Your Journey Starts Here!, Choose a Career You’ll Love and Never Work a Day in Your Life, Professional Branding That Gets You Noticed, Make the “Call Pile” With Attention-Grabbing Resumes and Cover Letters, and How to Ace the Interview … and Stand Out From the Crowd. Throughout my research, Grantham’s strategy to educate and prepare emerged as an obvious theme of delivering student-veteran successes.
Florida National University (FNU) – Florida National University held its first class in 1988 in the city of Hialeah, Fla., under the name Florida International Institute. A second campus opened in Miami one year later; a third campus was opened in a second Miami location in 1990. A fourth campus, the Online Learning Campus, was initiated in 2005. Florida National University offers Master’s, Bachelor’s and Associate degrees; diploma programs; and certificate programs. Florida National University
President Maria C. Regueiro spoke with me about the university’s veteran support services. The needs of our honored service members, their families and veterans are many, said Regueiro. She went on to explain that the Florida National University team understands that travel and deployment can conflict with campus learning and provide a challenge for those in the military. Florida National University seeks to solve this problem with a combination of quality and flexibility, aiming to help service members obtain a career by providing them with online programs that are easy to access from wherever they are stationed. The university provides these students with academic advising, numerous resources and, most of all, support to carry on their academic dreams.
The university’s staff believes that one size does not match each military student’s needs. Instead, it develops and implements education programs that meet individual needs, backing these programs up with the university’s regional accreditation.The university’s student-veterans obtain more than an education; the institution’s career support stands out and continues to provide a resource to students long after graduation. The career support staff establishes a personal rapport with military students, giving them quick responses to their queries, concerns and needs. The staff believes it is critical to understand the limitations and special needs these students face, always letting them know that the university team members are there to support students in their career paths. Regueiro emphasized that the staff at Florida National University is grateful for the sacrifices student-veterans have made to preserve our freedom.
Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) is a technical design and engineering college. Wentworth was founded in 1904 and offers career-focused education through its 15 Bachelor’s degree programs in areas such as architecture, computer science, design, engineering, engineering technology and management, as well as Master ’s degrees in architecture and construction management. My conversation with Maureen Dischino, Executive Director of Admissions, and Jamie Kelly, Associate Vice President of Public Affairs, inspired in me an Oprah Winfrey-type “aha!” moment when they described two main student-veteran initiatives. The first initiative involves faculty mentors. Wentworth provides an informal student-veteran mentoring program, which provides student-veterans with a support structure in the form of mentors who have a military background. These mentors understand veterans’ history and have a common connection with them that helps the mentors have a positive impact on the students’ academic journeys, improving retention and completion rates and building lifelong relationships. Dischino explained that Wentworth focuses on trying to be as veteran-friendly as it can be.
Wentworth welcomes veteran relationships. The counseling center has gone through specialized training to better support veterans and to take the concept of being veteran-friendly to a higher level. This military-friendly training begins with the university’s commitment to veteran success and an understanding that careers and jobs play a critical role in veterans’ future. Wentworth looks for leadership qualities and maturity from students interested in pursuing careers, paying attention to the work student-veterans have done while in the military. That established leadership quality prepares student-veterans for memorable academic success at Wentworth. The second initiative is a co-op. Wentworth students’ job market industry advantage is fostered by a cooperative education (co-op) that touches more than 1,400 students each year, providing educational journeys that promote lifelong careers. Dischino said, ‘‘At Wentworth, we prepare students for specific careers.’’ Through two mandatory semesters of co-op, students fulfill a professional experience requirement needed to graduate. Wentworth’s co-op model creates the opportunity for potential employers to interact with Wentworth’s students, creating relationships built on motivated students seeking out real-world employment experiences. The co-op is an education model that links classroom learning with potential employers. Co-op students are paid by local, national and international employers, who then hire these students after graduation, resulting in an “education designed for return on investment (ROI).”
Texas Tech University (TTU)– Founded in 1923 on the South Plains of West Texas, Texas Tech is a comprehensive research university that retains the sense of a smaller liberal arts institution. Texas Tech earned my attention with a quote on its website by Kent Hance stating that the university “provides resources and educational opportunities needed to succeed in civilian life.” I found that intriguing, and I reached out to Van Dusen, who explained the Texas Tech University veteran support model. Working directly with the university’s huge career center, Texas employers come to Texas Tech because they know that the institution instills a work ethic that equals a success-oriented mindset in its students. Van Dusen added that having military experience today can make a student very marketable to prospective employers. Van Dusen pointed out that the career center is staffed by former U.S. military service members who help the military students translate their military experiences into terms civilian employers can understand.
This process of reframing professional experience becomes the foundation for a resume that demands attention from hiring companies. The career center supports the resume-building process and provides resources that improve interview skills.Many of the university’s student-veterans are 26 years old and feeling out of place attending college with 19-year-olds. They feel that they are already behind the bell curve. TTU strives to help military students understand that the experiences they gained in the military are going to put them significantly ahead of their non- military peers in terms of employment marketability. Van Dusen went on to say that, for a veteran support career center to be truly effective, it must go well beyond being simply military- friendly – after all, “you can’t be too military-friendly.” TTU’s mission is to help any student who comes to the career center with a problem.
“Beyond military-friendly” appears to be Texas Tech University’s secret sauce to success, combined with their strong employer-community relationships.
We all have a responsibility to our military community to identify institutions that go beyond being simply military-friendly and have the attitude that you cannot be too military-friendly. When schools go above and beyond awarding degrees and certificates to U.S. military service members, their families and veterans, this extra initiative opens up new opportunities for veterans and employers alike. Dr. Pete
The featured institutions have implemented proven higher education solutions that are working across our great nation and prove that the principle “you can’t be too military-friendly” begins with you.
by AMERICAN WRITER Dr. Pietro Savo Tradition Books Publication © 2011
Manufacturing Research Practitioner ™ by Dr. Pietro
Pietro Savo E-Mail Link Dr.Pete@EducationIsPower.US