The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has been named a Military Friendly School for the seventh consecutive year based on support and academic program offerings for veterans and feedback from student veterans.
UWSP believes “military-friendly” refers to the faculty, staff, student government, and the general student population having an attitude of openness, care, and concern for both the academic success and emotional health of those who have served our country.
The University also received the UW VETS Certification earlier this year based on responding to student veteran needs, creating a campus committee focused on veterans’ issues, offering orientation programming, training to faculty and staff on veterans’ issues, providing counseling services and other resources and establishing a resource center where student veterans can access services.
Approximately 325 student veterans, National Guard members, reservists and military dependents are enrolled at UWSP.
Ann Whipp, veterans coordinator for eleven years at UWSP, is the main point of contact for veterans on campus to connect them with many resources.
Her role is to explain educational benefit options, assist with the application for benefits, and to provide campus and community resource information that will contribute to the academic success and well-being of all military-affiliated students.
Some areas where Whipp directs veterans to are counseling, housing, finance, tutoring, orientation and more. For new student veterans specifically, she highly recommends the pizza party meet and greet at the beginning of each semester for them to find a community.
“This is the most rewarding job I have because I get to give back to them. Taking one thing off their minds helps them focus on academics,” Whipp said.
There was a Veterans Day Program this year which consisted of a formal ceremony with retired Brigadier General Kerry Denson, a 40 year veteran of the U.S. army and Wisconsin Army National Guard as the keynote speaker.
There was a panel discussion including Chancellor Patterson, Denson, students Kelsey Forrest and Nicole Harsh and Dan Buttery, assistant deputy of the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs.
Lastly, “Saving Private Ryan” and several veteran documentaries were shown and moderated by David Chrisinger, UWSP instructor of “Back from the Front,” a class on transitioning from military to civilian life.
Tegan Griffith, 32 year old communications major and United States Marine Corps veteran, appreciates the different services offered to her at UWSP.
“There’s always someone willing to help out a non-traditional student,” Griffith said. “Being in the military is embraced, but we’re encouraged to do more than that.”
Griffith has benefitted personally since enrolled as a student at UWSP because she has had the opportunity to grow academically and individually. Griffith grew up in the small town of Wittenberg and hopes to work with small businesses in the future to bridge the gap between veterans and citizens.
Josh Fager, 29 year old ecosystems restoration management major, has served with the United States Navy for 5 years of active duty. He came to UWSP because of the well known natural resource department, but immediately got involved in the Veterans Club and served as the President for the 2014-2015 school year.
The Veterans Club is a community of students that puts on events such as a 5K in the fall and ice fishing in the winter. They meet bi-weekly to plan events and on the off weeks host “mandatory fun,” which includes game nights, bowling or hanging out downtown to forget about school and fulfill that sense of comradery.
“We might have all served in different branches and different times, but we are all brothers and sisters,” Fager said. “We are all students now, and we are still brothers and sisters.”
Fager mentioned he would like to see his peers connect with someone they might not normally connect with by approaching a student veteran on campus. He even mentioned he normally wears his military backpack, so he is approachable and easy to find.
Other practical steps to better understand the unique challenges student veterans face in their transition to civilian life are for faculty, staff and students to participate in an online training simulation called Veterans on Campus.
The 30 minute course can be accessed on the Veteran Services webpage and teaches about common transitional stress that student veterans experience, what resources are available on campus for student veterans and how to help a struggling student veteran.
For more information on veterans’ services, contact Ann Whipp at 715-346-3237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.