Veterans finding campus accomodating

U.S. Air Force veteran Scott Janke said he was not surprised to hear UW-Eau Claire was again named a military friendly school by Victory Media, a veteran-owned business and the force behind G.I. Jobs. It’s a publication that highlights military friendly schools and offers employment information for veterans.

“I’ve been going here for three years and I’ve felt very comfortable as a veteran,” said the 42-year-old elementary education major. “They’ve really implemented a lot of support systems and programs that cater to us and our needs. They’ve really kept us involved and made sure our voices get heard.”

Janke, one of about 300 veteran students currently at Eau Claire, served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years before retiring approximately three years ago. While in the Air Force, he decided to return to school to get an education degree. Janke received a few associate degrees from the Air Force and earned college credit.

Returning to school after serving might be a little scary for some veterans, but Janke said Eau Claire made him feel at ease about his education and his veteran status.

“Things like the Veterans Club and the veterans lounge are a big part of why I feel so taken care of on campus,” Janke said. “We also have the opportunity to be advocates for veterans within the university system. I’ve gone down to Madison a few times to represent vets at Eau Claire.”

This is Eau Claire’s fifth year being named a military friendly school. Victory Media’s 2014 list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace the nation’s servicemembers and veterans as students.

According to G.I. Jobs, the list measures the programs and services important to the military community. This includes a school’s flexibility, veteran student support, academic accreditation, percentage of student veterans, tuition discounts and military spouse policies.

There are several different programs Eau Claire offers veteran and currently serving students, said Miranda Cross-Schindler, the university’s military education benefits coordinator.

“We have implemented a veteran family fund so spouses of veterans can benefit from that, we have a Yellow Ribbon Agreement in place that allows out of state veterans to receive more financial aid and we have things like an active Veterans Club, a Veteran Center and a Veteran Advisory Board,” Cross-Schindler said.

The university uses surveys to learn what veteran students want and need from the college. Janke said he has filled out the surveys and positive things have usually come out of it, he said.

Bonnie Isaacson, a nontraditional student advisor, has worked closely with perspective veteran students for the past 10 years. She offers a 100 level introductory course for adults returning to school, does academic advising and acts as co-chair of the Veterans Advisory Board.

“It’s nice to have our name out there so prospective students will see that we really work to serve them,” Isaacson said. “I just think it’s exciting.”

Isaacson said the most important factor in all of this is just being accommodating and understanding to these nontraditional students.

UW-Madison, -Green Bay, -Milwaukee and other system schools have made the list, along with Eau Claire.

“We really appreciate the awareness that’s out there,” Janke said. “We don’t do what we do for attention or recognition but it’s nice to know that campus has our back.”