University receives award for work with vets

Story by Janelle Gergen

UW-Eau Claire recently received a $10,000 award for its support of veterans on campus. The UW-Extension Adult Friendly Institution Incentive Plan awarded the grant in response to an application that focused on the new Veterans Center.

“We’re particularly proud of the fact that we now have a Veterans Center on campus, and just the programming, the mentoring, that’s happened as a result of that Veterans Center,” said nontraditional student adviser Bonnie Isaacson. “… We had to talk about what had changed this past year, what was different, and so we could specifically talk about our Veterans Center.”

Eight campuses submitted proposals to the awards program, which was open to all schools in the UW System, Isaacson said. The program focused on the efforts of UW campuses to create a welcoming environment for nontraditional students in the past year. Eau Claire was the recipient of the top award, while three other schools also received monetary prizes.

The Veterans Center is an important thing to have on campus because it offers veteran students a place to meet people who have been through some of the same experiences, Isaacson said.

“When you talk to veteran students on campus – or any campus literature that you read (about) veteran students across the nation – the number one thing that they will mention is importance of being able to connect with other students that have been through similar situations like themselves that understand what they’ve been through,” she said.

Nontraditional student Edward Williams agreed with this sentiment.

“All of us have a common experience, which is the military,” he said. “… It really just gives us an opportunity to be around people that we are comfortable with. … You know, we can sit and talk, and we’re on common ground.”

The money received through the award will go towards continuing the work that’s being done with the Veterans Center, as well as the campus as a whole, Isaacson said.

“We’re hoping to do more programming, maybe bring in some speakers – not just for veteran students, but for faculty, staff (and) all students on campus,” she said.

She also hopes to enhance the mentor program, and they’re looking into putting together a System-wide conference for veteran students, as well, that all UW veterans would be invited to attend, she said.

Williams and fellow nontraditional student Jill Doubek would like to see more people taking advantage of what’s already offered through the Veterans Center.

“We try to participate on campus and stuff like that,” Doubek said, “but it’s hard since it’s such a small group and not everyone has the time to do things, and not everyone knows about us.”

“It’ll just take time to get out there, for the community to see us,” Williams said.

Isaacson hopes to see the center continue to grow in the future and thinks this award will be of assistance in those efforts.

“What we’re hoping to do is just continue with what we have been offering and maybe developing some new programs,” she said. “… Hopefully we can keep the center up and running for many years to come.”