The Times West Virginian

November 14, 2013

‘Military Friendly’ great recognition earned by FSU, Pierpont and WVU


Times West Virginian

— Words are certainly important when it comes to recognizing the contributions of our nation’s veterans and military personnel.

Actions, which North Central West Virginia higher-education institutions are taking, are even more essential for those who have served or are serving in the military. They deserve all the resources that can be mustered to help them smoothly and successfully contribute in civilian life.

That’s why we offer a salute to Fairmont State University, Pierpont Community & Technical College and West Virginia University for being recognized by G.I. Jobs Magazine, which Victoria Media publishes, in the 2014 Military Friendly Schools list.

According to www.militaryfriendlyschools.com, this annual guide features “the top 20 percent of schools nationwide that deliver the best experience for military students.”

Victory Media is a veteran-owned business founded in 2001. It notes that it has surveyed “tens of thousands of institutions and adjudicating lists that capture best practices in recruitment and retention of military personnel as civilian employees, students and franchisees. There is no cost associated with participation in Victory Media surveys or being selected to a Military Friendly list. Our survey-driven lists have been published every year since 2003. These employers, schools, franchises and cities represent the top tier of institutions with leading opportunities for military service members and spouses.”

FSU, Pierpont and WVU officials are proud to have earned the recognition.

“We were really pleased to get it two years in a row,” said Cynthia Hudok, director of financial aid and scholarships for FSU and Pierpont. “We had to apply for both schools.”

She estimated that close to 300 veterans or military personnel are studying at the two schools and said FSU and Pierpont work hard to make sure those students have a smooth transition to college life.

A lot of staff members come together on the academic side, in the financial aid department and in the veterans affairs office to assist veterans, and that team has years of experience helping military personnel, Hudok said. The schools also have an active veteran student organization.

People with military experience often find it easy to transition into programs like national security and intelligence, criminal justice and health careers. Credits from military schools and training can also be transferred, which helps the students, Hudok said.

She said military service members and veterans are granted early class registration, which means they get to register at the same time as seniors so they can pick courses that fit their schedules.

If students need to take a military leave of absence, Fairmont State and Pierpont provide several options so they can return to school later without penalty, Hudok said.

The schools also try to bring in guest speakers and hold special events that focus on topics related to veterans, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

This is WVU’s fifth year in a row on the Military Friendly Schools list.

“I think it’s a wonderful accolade to receive because we really deliver the best experience for military students,” said Jerry McCarthy, interim veteran advocate for WVU.

More than 900 veterans, military personnel and their dependents are enrolled at the university, including about 188 veterans who are new students this school year.

McCarthy said WVU always has a meet-and-greet with these individuals at the beginning of each semester and typically holds a veteran summit to discuss issues related to veterans on campus. The school features a veterans group that meets regularly on campus and has a veterans committee comprised of faculty and staff.

A women’s veterans initiative was started this fall, and there is also an effort to encourage veterans to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors, he said.

WVU offers veteran-friendly classes and is in the process of creating a special English 101 class for next year. The university has guidelines for students to make up missed work when they have absences due to military service requirements, McCarthy added.

“We have academic advisers in different departments across campuses that are there to help the veterans,” he said.

Plus, representatives in career services and accessibility services can assist with veterans’ needs, McCarthy said.

We appreciate all that is being done at FSU, Pierpont and WVU, and trust efforts to assist current and former military personnel are a common thread across the nation.

President Barack Obama honored U.S. service members at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Monday morning, urging the nation to increase its support for veterans of the country’s most recent wars.

“Even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun,” he told an audience of veterans and their families. “Even as we make difficult fiscal choices as a nation, we are going to keep providing support for our veterans.”

That is a responsibility the nation must never ignore.