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Support for Veteran and Nontraditional Students
Starting college can be stressful for anyone. Yet when adding caring for children or being an active member of the military, the situation becomes an even larger challenge. Thankfully, the University of Wisconsin-Superior has resources in place to help these students succeed.
The Veterans and Nontraditional Student Center (VNSC) is committed to assisting veteran and nontraditional students throughout their academic journey. A nontraditional student is a student who may be 25 years old or older, married with or without children, single with children, veteran or active duty military, spouse of a veteran or active duty military member, or dependent of a veteran.
“We work to put these students on a path to success,” said Monte Stewart, VNSC Student Services Coordinator. “We want to make sure that we eliminate any barriers they may face along the way.”
At UW-Superior, the VNSC serves as a liaison to benefits and campus and community resources that address the unique needs of veteran and nontraditional students.
“One of the big things that we really try to do is to transition our students who have had a gap in their schooling,” said Stewart. “Whether it’s a few years or 20 years, we can help them navigate and be successful at UW-Superior.”
Assistance can be provided on a one-on-one basis or through larger events such as workshops for time-management or career preparations that are held with UW-Superior’s Career Services office. The VNSC also provides resources from the community.
“We have five different veteran service organizations within the community that hold regular hours every month here in the center,” said Stewart. “I think that’s a huge help so that our veterans don’t have to go out and seek assistance – we’re bringing it here to them on campus.”
The VNSC also facilitates co-curricular programs and events that enhance the overall student experience and improve the campus climate. The range of events runs the gamut from family fun to serious and educational.
Seussville Family Fun Night, a yearly collaboration with the Future Teachers Association student organization and the Educational Leadership students, faculty and staff, has become an annual tradition. The evening includes music and an assortment of classic books from Dr. Seuss and other childhood classics along with a visit from The Cat in the Hat.
“It highlights who some of our young teachers are that will be in the classrooms a lot of times within the region,” said Stewart. “It’s great to highlight some of the things that they’re doing in the classroom and showcase this to our local community.”
Perhaps the most well-known event for the VNSC is the annual Running for Our Heroes 5K Run/Walk co-hosted with Douglas County Veteran Services.
“It’s been great to see this event grow over the past couple years,” said Stewart. “The course takes you through the heart of UW-Superior. We have music playing prior to the race and during the race. I love the fact that we conduct a formal national anthem before the race, too. We also take a moment of silence to recognize the heroes in our lives who may not be here today. It’s a powerful event.”
All proceeds from the run/walk benefit the Douglas County Soldiers and Sailors Relief Fund as well as the UW-Superior VNSC. Since it started, the Running for Our Heroes 5K Run/Walk has raised more than $5,000.
The group traditionally organizes on-campus events for the week of Veteran’s Day, that involve Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes where students, faculty, staff and community members have the opportunity to write and send letters to military personnel stationed abroad for no charge, forums where students, faculty, staff and community members have a chance to talk to student veterans about their military experiences both at home and overseas and to promote a friendlier campus community and a traditional Veteran’s Day ceremony.
The VNSC also holds an annual Veterans Expo with the Douglas County Veteran Services Office.
“This event brings together many of our veteran community leaders,” said Stewart. “It is a great occasion for those looking to get involved with other veterans or organizations, or learn about specific services.”
UW-Superior is also helping to ease student veteran’s adjustments to civilian and academic life with a new class. Transitions in Your Life: From Military to Campus Culture enables students to examine human behavior or interaction using the methods and assumptions of social science research.
“One of the core learning outcomes has to do with creative thinking,” said Stewart, who serves as the instructor of the course. “We talk about coming from the military and what that transition looks like and trying to align veterans with the skill-set to be able to critically think.”
For Josh Hogan, a Computer Science major, the class has already been a benefit.
“My favorite part of the course has been relating to people who have gone through and are going through the same things I am,” said Hogan. “We have covered so much in this class that has benefited me already. From learning the resources that campus has to offer, finding out what type of learner I am and taking an EQ-I [Emotional Quotient Inventory] assessment. Among many other things, I will continue to use these tools in the near future.”
The course has included guest lecturers along with discussion and tips on time management, strategic relationships, learning styles, ways to get involved on campus and additional ways to become successful.
“Anything is wide open and fair game to talk about,” said Stewart. “I want to make sure to equip these students with the resources both here and in the community so that they can be successful. That’s something that’s very important.”