It is a pleasure and honor for me to join you today for this very special open house. Our updated Military and Veteran Student Services office provides crucial support, but it also serves as a tremendous way to honor our veteran students’ service in our armed forces and their contributions to the University of Iowa.
Our veterans play an increasingly important role—and are enjoying an increasing presence—in our university. With one of the largest veteran student enrollments in the country, the UI is proud to offer an excellent and accessible education for those who have served our country. There are 500 veterans, service members, and their dependents receiving GI Benefits on the UI campus today. And there are also roughly 300 staff and faculty who identify as veterans here at Iowa.
We provide excellent services and support for our returning men and women in uniform. And our efforts have been recognized nationally. We could not be more pleased to be recognized in the G.I. Jobs list of Military Friendly Schools. And we were very pleased to be selected for the 2013 Guide to Top Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities by the journal Military Advanced Education. We are also proud to be recognized as a top institution for future service members, ranking as one of the top schools in Iowa for students interested in military service by the College Database.
The space we are celebrating today—Room 111 Communications Center—was established for veterans in 2006. Since then, it has served veterans, service members, and anyone invested in the educational and career goals of student veterans at the University of Iowa.
Recently, Military and Veteran Student Services joined the Center for Diversity and Enrichment within the Chief Diversity Office. The investments that the Chief Diversity Office and the university as a whole have made in our student veterans are exciting, and they reflect the value we place on their presence here at Iowa.
An important mission of Military and Veteran Student Services is to shift us from being a campus that has compassion for its veterans to one that is dependent on its veterans. Veterans are not a group who need “help.” They are a group with high energy, intelligence, and independence. This office is meant to provide support, but it’s also meant to harness that tremendous energy and creativity of our veteran students for the benefit of the entire university.
Events planned for this year include a Veterans Day celebration with the theme of Veteran Vitality. It will feature panels on LGBTQ–identified and under-represented racial and ethnic groups in the military. We will also see women-veteran-specific programming in the spring, and 2013-14 will close with a reception that celebrates the year’s achievements among our student veterans.
I am very pleased that this past April, we hired a full-time, permanent Military and Veteran Educational Specialist, Allen Roberts. Allen joins us from Portland State University, where he worked as the Veteran Certification Officer and Degree Requirements Specialist. While at Portland State, he received a divisional award for promoting diversity on campus. Allen has already had an impact here in the office and across campus. He has recently launched classes on Military Culture designed to increase campus awareness about the military and veteran culture at the UI as well as to discuss best practices for working with this important student population. His temporary assistant, Christine Skow, has completed work here at Iowa toward her doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and she received an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in spring 2011. Allen and Christine are an energetic and hard-working team, dedicated to the success of our military and veteran students.
Our deep commitment to the success of veteran students is also seen in our commitment to implementing the 8 Keys to Success for military and veteran education. You will be hearing much more about this in the future, but let me say that I am proud that we are able to implement, practice, and exemplify these keys to success. These keys include a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community, coordinating and centralizing campus efforts (which we are doing right here!), providing professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans, and much more.
Military and veteran students are an integral part of our diverse campus culture. So finally today, I also want to point out that the Diversity Resources Team has recently relocated to the Communications Center as well. The team, which is led by Lindsay Jarratt and includes Kendra Malone and Megan Schwalm, has the continued mission of developing resources, training, assessment, and strategic initiatives to foster a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive of all. The proximity of these two offices will create a great partnership that will integrate veteran culture even more effectively into the campus community.
The UI fulfills its mission best when we have a university community comprising students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds and experiences. The veteran experience is crucial to a fully representative university, in its teaching, research, and service pursuits and obligations. I often say that I want the University of Iowa to be an institution that inspires as well as educates. Our UI veteran community provides us with not only an important perspective, but also unique inspiration.
Thank you all for joining us today, and thank you once again to our veteran students for your service to our country and for your significant contributions to the excellence of the University of Iowa. We have so much pride in you.