Serving those who have served

Story by Nate Beck, Staff writer

Veterans returning from service to school can look to UW-Eau Claire as a top college for service members.

Military Advanced Education named Eau Claire in its 2013 guide to military-friendly colleges and universities.  This is the third award naming Eau Claire as a top school for veterans since September.

“The support staff here is phenomenal, they do everything they can for you,” Veterans Club President Nick Bures said.

In September, Eau Claire was named a military-friendly school by G.I. Jobs magazine and in November Eau Claire made Military Times’ “Best for Vets” list.

The Military Advanced Education award was based on a variety of criteria including online learning options, veteran assistance and veteran family support and counseling, amongst others.

Military Benefits Coordinator Miranda Cross-Schindler said there are still plans in the future to further Eau Claire’s support to veterans.

“We’re going to connect with veteran alumni and we’re going to establish a scholarship for veterans’ spouses and children,” she said.

“We have about 100 students who are children of veterans … that’s a population that gets overlooked,  they are serving right along with veterans and they need to be recognized as well.”

Although Eau Claire ranked high for vets, there are things Cross-Schindler hopes to improve in the future, including making it easier for vets to receive college credit for military service.

“We don’t really grant a lot of credit right off the bat; we grant one credit for physical activity but people who have 20 years in the military have to go and petition to get credit,” Cross-Schindler said.

Bures also said the credit system could use some revamping.

“Humanities credits don’t transfer like they do at other colleges,” Bures said. “I know Oshkosh gives vets cultural diversity credits, and Eau Claire doesn’t.”

Some veterans served in Baghdad, others barely left a ship during a tour. Currently, it is difficult to prove a connection between required classes and military service experience.

What the university wants vets to learn is judged on an individual basis, Bures said.

Junior Jake Nutt was stationed in Iraq during a transitional period.  He was exposed to Iraqi culture and was responsible for working with Iraqis.

“I also got to work with foreign nationals who were in Iraq, people from India, Nepal  and all those small little countries that I don’t know the name of,” he said.

Student veterans come to college and face a break in the rigor of military life. A college experience has unique challenges, which campus counselors along with the campus veterans club try to ease, Cross-Schindler said.

“By default, veterans are going to have the same struggles as any non-traditional student, a break in training, maybe a family at home, veterans  come from a very structured environment … that’s a big difference from the university,” she said.

Steve Dalsky, a junior non-traditional student and army vet who served from 1980 to 1988, picked Eau Claire because UW-La Crosse had met a quota for non-traditional students.

“We’ve helped revive the veterans club, which is a nice social outlet for us,” Dalsky said.

Eau Claire has improved its veterans services drastically in the last  few years,  Bures said.  The Veterans club holds benefits for military-related causes on a regular basis.  The Veterans club will hold a benefit dinner at the American Legion in early march.