Valparaiso University has been selected as a 2021 Military Friendly school. This award denotes universities that have meaningful programs in place and show special care to veterans.
The Military Friendly program is run by VIQTORY, a marketing company targeted towards those who have recently left military service and their families. Military Friendly awards are given to many groups of candidates, including employers, spouse employers, schools and spouse schools. Candidates for these recognitions are scored based on an over 100 question survey which candidates complete as part of the application. They are held to increasingly high standards.
Valpo currently has several programs to support veterans, the most recent being the Green Zone. Developed over the last few years, the group consists of Valpo faculty and staff who received training on how to provide counsel and guidance to struggling student veterans.
“It's very similar to what you would see across campus with the safe zone signs, basically a little placard that would appear on a door and that way veterans know that they have someone who is sympathetic with what they may be going through, and therefore able to have that just just near the idea that someone that they can they can talk to, and help them through what may be additional challenge that they have as a student veteran,” said Dr. Adam Stepanek, the University Coordinator of Army and Air Force ROTC efforts.
With 12 undergraduate and two graduate students who are veterans, this program gives a supportive shoulder that they may struggle to find on campus. Going into college at an older age and after a career serving the US presents many difficulties that other students do not have experience with.
“Challenges related to certain things like an exam, exam anxiety, sometimes just simply being in a confined space will bring back memories of a wartime situation or something else that was traumatic to them in their previous career,” Stepanek said.
The veterans also serve as peer mentors for each other as well as giving perspectives and advice to ROTC students who seek military careers.
Interim Associate Provost for Inclusion and Retention Dr. Byron Martin believes Valpo’s faculty and staff work well at helping veterans adjust to college life.
“I think the entry into Valpo, so our admissions office and then financial aid, are doing an incredible job in making sure those students are served. In both processes, it can take a little bit more paperwork and connectivity than the average student in making sure that they’re able to receive things such as their GI Bill money and things of that nature,” said Martin.
The purpose of the Military Friendly list is to give recommendations for life after the military to veterans and their families. Receiving this award acknowledges Valpo’s dedication to the veterans and dependents on campus, as well as respect for all they have already accomplished.
“We’re extremely blessed to have current military families, active military participants, as well as veterans on our campus. For those folks who choose to come to Valpo, I think it is important and something we appreciate just like any of our students who make the decision to come and attend here. We see it as we’re gaining family members,” Martin said. “In this case we’re gaining members that have served our country in a broader way. We’re just thankful for all our students being here but definitely for military families and veterans being here.”
Martin makes it clear that while veterans may not represent a large population on campus, they are extremely respected and valued.
“The heart and spirit of service that is constantly reflected in our Valpo community. Our veterans are individuals that have dedicated themselves already in their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in terms of protecting our country as a whole. I think there is extreme valor and dedication that they bring with that level of service,” Martin said.