UW Supports Military Veterans
In her search for a college, Kenda Mayfield found a lot to like about the University of Wyoming.
But it wasn't UW's especially affordable tuition, its idyllic setting on the high plains or one of its nationally-recognized areas of study that attracted Mayfield to Laramie. It was the university's commitment to military veterans.
"I looked at a lot of other places, and I could have gone to a lot of different places, but UW seemed to be more tailored toward me as a veteran and as a non-traditional student," says Mayfield, a veteran of the United States Army. "I couldn't find another place like here."
Last fall, UW expanded its deepening commitment to veterans by launching a first-of-its-kind class to help smooth the adjustment from military to college life. The Veterans Transition Course -- taught by Steve Barrett and Cameron Wright, professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering with a combined 51 years of military service -- began less than a year after UW opened its Veterans Services Center inside Knight Hall.
The nine-week course is designed to provide basic tools for academic success, such as writing and library skills; information on available resources for returning veterans, such as VA benefits and career services; a sense of community and belonging through interaction with fellow veterans; and information on veteran-related challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention.
And the veterans themselves helped build the class curriculum.
"We were asked in the beginning, ‘What do you want to do with it? What do you want to learn about? Who do you want us to bring in?'" says Robert Sheetz, a U.S. Navy veteran. "It was based on what we needed, not what somebody thought we needed. It was for us."
The Veterans Transition Course, created following a recommendation by the university's Veterans Task Force, will be offered each fall. Each graduate of the course receives a specially-made bronze coin that features the flags of Wyoming and the United States.
"I think it's so important that all universities really accept the folks who are not just coming back from war but coming back from the military. I think we need to heal some wounds, because we didn't do it right in the 1970s, and now we, as a nation, are getting a second chance," says Barrett. "I think the establishment of the Veterans Services Center, the ongoing efforts of the Veterans Task Force and this course are evidence of the University of Wyoming's commitment."
Veterans are taking notice of that commitment.
An Army veteran, Chad Gibbs says he didn't even have a way to find other veterans when he first arrived at UW. "The university has grown by leaps and bounds since I got here in 2009," he says. "We've opened the veterans' center, we're asking [in admissions paperwork] whether or not you're a veteran so we can offer the right scholarships, services and benefits and now there's this class. It's getting better all the time."
"The university has been outstanding," adds Daniel Zabriskie, who served in the Army National Guard. "And the plan for the future is incredibly ambitious. Even if they get half of it done, it's going to be amazing. But it already is compared to where we were in the past."
Tim Freye, a veteran of the Navy, says he's more impressed with UW's efforts to aid veterans each time he talks to friends "who are going to other universities across the country and aren't getting half of the support that we do here."
To learn more about UW veterans' services, go to http://www.uwyo.edu/vetservices/.