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PNW re-energizes its veteran services, gives vets support to earn degrees

Times - 1/27/2018

Jan. 27--Purdue University Northwest is one of more than 800 colleges and universities across the United States that have earned the Military Friendly School designation for 2018.

The distinction, from Victory Media Inc., honors the nation's top schools that welcome America's military service members, veterans and spouses as students and help to ensure their success on campus.

Victory Media is a veteran-owned small business that connects the military community to civilian employment, education and entrepreneurship opportunities.

PNW, which has veteran centers on its Hammond and Westville campuses, has about 300 military veterans enrolled at both. University leaders say the designation shows Purdue's commitment to assisting veterans and their families.

Lisa Goodnight, associate vice chancellor for student affairs/senior dean of students, and John Weber, the new executive director of veteran and student support, said the university is spearheading a number of new initiatives designed specifically for veterans.

"We strive to build a community that fully supports the transition from a military lifestyle into the academic lifestyle," Weber said.

Oregon native Mike Marsden said the Veteran Services Center at Purdue gave him tremendous help in dealing with his military benefits and how to access them.

Marsden, who served in the Marines from 2008 to 2013, said he and his wife moved to Highland after he completed his tour of duty overseas to be near his Marine Corps buddies who lived in the area.

He also showed his grit and determination by enrolling in the electrical engineering program at Purdue's Hammond campus.

While at Purdue, Marsden searched the internet for a paid internship he could participate in during summer break. He found that at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Columbus, Ohio. Marsden worked the summer of 2016 and 2017 as an intern.

He earned his bachelor's in December, and has been offered a full-time job at the NASA Glenn center and will start in two weeks.

"I think it can initially be hard to get back into civilian life," he said Tuesday.

"Purdue gave me the help and assistance I needed. In the military, you have to do what you're told but once out, you're on your own and you have to have fortitude and decisiveness. I had to get out of my comfort zone and pursue what I wanted."

New initiatives to build on current program

Goodnight and Weber said some of the new initiatives include a peer-mentoring group for veterans, a faculty and staff advisory board and a point person in the career services office to work directly with veterans.

"There will be someone in the career center whose job will be to work with veterans and assist with their resume or anything else that's needed," she said.

"We have a student advocate at each campus who can meet with students and assess their needs and connect them to the necessary service."

"Most of the time our veterans are older and more experienced. They want help getting to graduation. Once the peer-mentoring program is established, they can share their experiences and create a community of veteran students who can be supportive of each other in ways that the administration can't," she said.

Goodnight said Weber is starting his new job by analyzing the previous service for vets at both campuses and formulating a cohesive set of programs.

Weber said he recently visited the US. Army base at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he met and talked with Army personnel, giving him a better insight into the life of a recruit.

"It was a wonderful experience," he said. "The whole idea of going was to help us to relate to our students better and to understand the whole process from a young recruit to career military.

"It allowed me to have a better understanding of what their transition is like from military life to university student, and how they may struggle a bit because military life is very structured and there's much more freedom on a college campus."

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