By Carol Giardina, director of military outreach, contributing writer
In an effort to continually improve the quality of service provided to the community and to facilitate a smooth transition to college for members of the military, veterans, and military family members, ASU will establish a Military & Veterans Service Center. The basement of Payne Hall, one of the original Arsenal buildings, will once again be a “home” for service members when the Military & Veterans Service Center opens in August 2012. According to ASU’s School Certifying Official, Mike Wilkins, “Approximately 250 veterans attended the institution annually from 1993-2002. In 2003, the number of former military students enrolled reached 300, steadily increasing each year until more than 500 students are using VA benefits in 2012.” This trend in increased enrollment for former military individuals is expected to continue as service members return from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Enrollment numbers for active duty service members using Tuition Assistance is also growing at ASU as the military ties educational attainment to reenlistment eligibility and promotion. The exact number of military spouses and dependent children currently enrolled in degree programs at ASU is currently unknown, but there is a plan to capture this information in future terms. In addition to enrollment in conventional college credit courses, the Division of Professional and Community Education (DPCE) also provides professional vocational certifications for approximately 275 military spouses a month through the MyCAA program, according to Denise Moore, director of the DPCE.
In 2011, the Fort Gordon Liaison Committee, under the leadership of James Grayson, divided into task forces to better understand military markets, remove barriers for service members, connect and build relationships, and to share information within and outside the ASU community. The committee members with partners on campus worked to improve services for service members and veterans. As a result of this work, ASU was accepted by the University System of Georgia into the Soldier to Scholar Program and was designated a “military friendly institution” in November 2011. Another outcome of the committee’s work is the creation of the Office of Military & Veterans Services (MVSC). When completed, this center will provide students with a large study/meeting room and lounge.
Carol Giardina has been named the director of military outreach. Other staff members are M. Jody Wilson, program director for military outreach, and Mike Wilkins, VA school certifying official. Currently, interviews are being conducted to fill a military services coordinator position. This position will largely be responsible for processes in the GoArmyEd portal. One graduate student assistant and four VA work study students will also assist students at the center. Giardina says, “The priorities are to encourage large numbers of veterans and service members in the ASU community to use the benefits they have earned; to improve services for these students so that everything possible is done to remove institutional barriers to success; and to move students from inquiry to application, orientation, and graduation, utilizing as much of their appropriate transfer and experiential credit to complete degrees in the most timely manner. We will strive to make processes easier for them by partnering with other service providers on campus.”
The center will provide a place for service members, veterans, and their family members to study, meet, and mentor each other. Dr. Randall Miller, professor of political science and a Vietnam veteran, has agreed to serve as an advisor for a veteran’s chartered student organization. Other military as well as former military faculty and staff are encouraged to get involved at the MVSC as well. However, much of the mentoring that occurs in the center will be student to student.
General (Ret.) Jeff Foley believes that our progress has been largely due to the support of President Bill Bloodworth. Foley says, “The MVSC was created with existing personnel—a tribute to the value and importance the university feels about this effort. It’s also important to note that ASU went live in the Go/ArmyEd portal on July 1, 2012, which will assist service members to process their Tuition Assistance benefits.“
Kim Gray, director of grants, says that the center will make the institution a more competitive grant applicant because the MVSC shows our commitment to providing excellent military and veteran student support services. Peter Basciano, associate vice president for academic affairs, agrees with Ms. Gray. He states, “The centralization of these academic support functions reflects the implementation of best practices and is intended to increase the likelihood of academic success for this constituent group.”