Serving those who’ve served
Minnesota Private Colleges are proud to serve veterans — helping them build on what they have learned while protecting our country. Here are excerpts of some stories from two of our colleges about supporting these students, and we have a story of the impact for vets of an alum’s efforts to fight homelessness.
- University of Saint Thomas’ new Veteran Resource Center
- Gustavus Adolphus College alum working to end veteran homelessness
- How Augsburg University supports veterans
Many things happened at and around St. Thomas on March 17, 2017. None of them may have been as consequential, though, for the future of the university as the meeting between President Julie Sullivan, some faculty members and five student veterans of the St. Thomas Veterans’ Association.
Senior Peter Watson was the club president and helped develop the plan presented to Sullivan that day for more veteran-friendly services, which centered around creating a physical space on campus dedicated to veterans.
“I asked them to come back with a larger proposal that would support our aspiration of becoming the most veteran-friendly campus in the upper Midwest,” Sullivan said. “I was delighted with the proposal they returned with, and their ideas shaped our creation of the Veteran’s Resource Center.”
Those ideas are now a reality as the Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC) celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 10, the day before Veteran’s Day. With its founding director, Norman Ferguson, on board and a dedicated group of veteran students helping push things forward, the promise and excitement around what the center can be for St. Thomas and its students is huge.
Today, through Cathy ten Broeke’s leadership of the Minnesota Interagency Council on Homelessness, the number of homeless persons in Minnesota has decreased 7 percent statewide and 20 percent among families with children since 2014. These reductions among families with children are among the most significant decreases in the U.S.
In March, the federal government confirmed that homelessness among veterans has been eradicated in southwest Minnesota . . . Northeastern Minnesota, central Minnesota, and Ramsey County are very close as well. There are 242 homeless vets remaining in Minnesota. Ten Broeke hopes to have their housing ready by Christmas, about the time the State’s 2018-2020 plan to prevent and end homelessness will be unveiled.
An updated plan is necessary because there are still more than 7,400 homeless Minnesotans who are not veterans. Most are children and parents, some have chronic health issues, and at least 1000 are young people who are homeless without a parent.
“I think about that long arc of history—each of us has a role somewhere on that path. It doesn’t mean we have to carry the ball the whole way. I am only one piece of a very big movement. This is a relay—a justice relay—and the last mile is always the hardest.
“But I firmly believe that we can end homelessness, and that we very well may during my lifetime. And I’m going to keep trying to work my way out of a job.”
Many of Augsburg’s students with military experience enroll in an undergraduate or graduate degree program to build upon the education and training that were part of their military service. For other students, Augsburg is a way to prepare for a civilian career that’s unlike any past duties.
Some students who have served in the armed forces are eligible for state and federal financial aid assistance to help pay for college. At Augsburg, more than 100 students with military experience are working one-on-one with the College’s Student Financial Services and Registrar’s offices to successfully claim their education benefits and get individualized help navigating complex eligibility rules.
Augsburg also directly supports these students by hosting an on-campus space for them to meet and by employing a Student Veteran Liaison who mentors peers and works to connect students with College resources.
“We’re seeing more nontraditional-age students in our undergrad population and some of those people have been around the world and have served our country,” said Lori York, assistant registrar and Veterans Affairs certifying official. “A veteran’s sense of ‘a call to serve’ totally meshes with Augsburg, and we want to make sure they can make the most of their education here.”
Efforts at The College of St. Scholastica as well as Augsburg University were featured in an earlier newsletter article. We also have a simple handout highlighting how our colleges can be a good option for vets, including links for more information at each institution.