A day before Veteran’s Day, the University of Wisconsin (UW) System will honor six of its institutions at the upcoming Board of Regents meeting on November 10 for achieving UW Veterans Education and Transition to Success (VETS) Certification. In addition to the undergraduate and graduate tuition benefits the UW System awards to veterans under the Wisconsin G.I. Bill, this certification recognizes each institution’s commitment to helping student veterans succeed. In order to be VETS certified, a campus must go above and beyond in providing a wide range of critical supportive services including counseling, a welcoming campus environment, and giving student veterans a voice in university life.
“These institutions have tangibly and comprehensively demonstrated their commitment to ensuring student veterans have the best possible educational experience,” says UW System President Ray Cross, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam. “The UW System is a national leader in offering exceptional higher education services to student veterans. I look forward to recognizing other UW institutions in the future as they achieve certification.”
The Wisconsin G.I. Bill offers the finest higher education benefit in the nation, which can be used for undergraduate or graduate education for full-time, part-time and Flexible Option students. Eligible veterans, as well as spouses and children of disabled veterans, are not charged tuition and fees up to 128 credits. Assuming a standard course load, the Wisconsin GI Bill provides four years of 100% free tuition. Veterans are given priority registration at all UW institutions. In fiscal year 2016, 3,810 eligible veterans and 1,742 eligible family members took advantage of nearly $23 million in UW-funded tuition, fee and related benefits.
“Wisconsin has one of the most comprehensive veterans’ education benefits packages for those who have served our country, providing free tuition to more than 5,500 veterans and family members of disabled veterans,” Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs Secretary John Scocos said. “We want student veterans to succeed and Wisconsin’s benefits, coupled with the innovative efforts to support veterans at our campuses, gives those student veterans every opportunity to get an outstanding education.”
The first six institutions to receive UW VETS Certification will be UW-Green Bay, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater. UW VETS certification is an important achievement that student veterans and others may consider as they choose a university. UW VETS Certification criteria includes:
- Training campus faculty and staff on issues that student veterans may face in transitioning to college, such as scheduling, making connections, study habits, and health and welfare challenges
- Conducting regular surveys of student veterans to identify needs and get input
- Establishing a campus steering committee composed of student veterans, faculty and staff to share information and provide guidance to campus leadership
- Providing student veteran-focused orientation programming
- Identifying internal and external counseling resources to assist student veterans with academic, financial and social concerns
- Providing a dedicated space on campus where student veterans can meet peers and receive help with benefits, enrollment and connections to supportive resources
Following are highlights of each institution’s achievements in earning the UW VETS certification.
- UW-Green Bay was among the first campuses in the nation to train faculty and staff on the unique transition challenges faced by student veterans. The Veterans Support Team is comprised of faculty, students and staff, and it drives cross-campus dialogues about veterans’ issues.
- Each November, the Chancellor’s Veteran Reception kicks off a week-long series of events including an awareness walk, volunteer organization panel, and military speakers.
- The At Ease: Veteran & Service Member Student Lounge opened on the UW-Green Bay campus in 2013 with the support of Green Bay philanthropists Karen and Craig Dickman. The lounge provides veterans with a place to gather for support, socialization, and studying.
- The Veteran Services and Military Assistance Center (VSMAC) regularly hosts receptions with corporate employers specifically seeking veterans for internships and full-time positions.
- To honor the sacrifice of service members and raise student awareness, the VSMAC and student organization Veterans, Educators and Traditional Students also display U.S. and service flags on Bascom Hill and read names of service members killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
- The campus-wide Veterans Working Group developed an Enrolled Students Called to Active U.S. Military Service policy, which serves as a model for other UW System institutions.
- UW-Milwaukee enrolls more student veterans than any other campus in the Midwest.
- The Military and Veterans Resource Center (MAVRC, pronounced “Maverick”) is a place for veterans to meet, talk and connect to campus resources.
- MAVRC’s Corporate Partners Program links six large Milwaukee-area employers with UW-Milwaukee student veterans for paid internships. The program also features networking events and training programs for student veterans, while educating local employers about the challenges veterans face upon transitioning out of the military and into the contemporary workplace.
- UW-Stevens Point launched the Veterans on Campus software training package from Kognito in 2014, which provides immersive learning experiences to drive positive change in health behaviors. The successful roll-out at UW-Stevens Point set the stage to make the training package available system-wide in 2015.
- The campus offers special event and speakers targeting veterans, including the nationally acclaimed Back from the Front history and writing seminar for student veterans. This seminar leads students through the history of the transition from combat to civilian life, provides speakers, requires reflective writing, and introduces resources in the community.
- UW-Stevens Point spearheaded a committee process that culminated in awarding four credits and the fulfillment of General Education Wellness requirement to all students completing military Basic Training.
- During Summer Orientation Advisement Registration, the Veteran and Nontraditional Student Center (VNSC) runs sessions geared to veteran students that introduce a wide range of topics including veteran-specific programming, the Veterans Club, academic advising, career services, as well as counseling and health services.
- The UW-Superior Admissions Office works with the VNSC to connect prospective student veterans with current students and staff at the VNSC.
- The VA Work Study program assigns students a list of incoming student veterans so they can reach out about their specific needs and help them transition into college.
- UW-Whitewater is a leader in providing peer advisors to student veterans, as well as thorough evaluation of military coursework to award credit for prior learning.
- The Chancellor’s Veteran and Military Service Members Committee (VMSMC) plans and implements programming, focusing outreach efforts to women veterans, LGBTQ veterans, and spouses and dependents of veterans.
- VMSMC helps refer student veterans to both on-campus and community-based resources for mental healthcare and disability compensation filing assistance.