veteran

Veteran makes it happen thanks to KSU program

Name of Publication: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constituion
Excerpt of Article: 

By Hunter Lacey

Posted:  12:00 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 | Filed in: Local Education

From 18 to 41, Edgard Sanchez was dedicated to the U.S. Armed Forces. He spent four years as a Marine, 17 years serving in the Army, and a few more years in Afghanistan in the supply and logistics field.

But Sanchez knew the day would come when he would retire from serving and move on to another career field. One day, he received a mailing about Kennesaw State University.

Veteran makes it happen thanks to KSU program photo
Phil Skinner

“The story in there was about a veteran who went through the culinary program and loved it,” Sanchez said.

He had not planned to go back to school, but was hungry for new opportunities. Sanchez used KSU’s VA Education Benefits program to overcome a problem that is common among veterans: His experience didn’t match his resume and he lacked the education to move forward in a non-military career.

“I knew [this program] would open another avenue for me, and it would lead to something that would benefit me,” he said.

Veteran makes it happen thanks to KSU program photo
Phil Skinner

He graduated from the culinary apprenticeship program and planned in November to open an Atlanta-based food truck, C’est Tout Bon 2 Eat, serving New Orleans-inspired cuisine.

The culinary apprenticeship program is one of 30 offerings by KSU’s VA Education Benefits program, which allows Post 9/11 veterans to use their GI Bill. The program offers certificates in fields such as project management, social media marketing, real estate, information systems and English as a Second Language. Classes on campus also focus on health care topics and technology, including Microsoft Office and Android app development.

“We’re constantly trying to develop new programs and see where the market is providing new positions,” said Nora Felde, military liaison for KSU’s College of Continuing and Professional Education.

In addition, the school’s MyCAA (Career Advancement Account) program provides military spouses up to $4,000 in funding for continued education. MyCAA works with campus and online certificate programs.

Through the culinary program, Sanchez took advantage of two apprenticeships at the esteemed Park 75, located at Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown Atlanta, and Elevation and Chophouse in Kennesaw. Sanchez was required to complete around 420 hours of apprenticeships in addition to classroom learning.

“When I signed up, I didn’t realize it was going to be that intensive,” Sanchez said. “But looking back, it was something more enjoyable than work.”

Sanchez quickly began applying the skills to launch his business.

“I’m from New Orleans, so I’ll be serving up po’ boys, gourmet hamburgers and grilled cheeses with a Cajun twist,” Sanchez said. “Every day in class, I learned something new, and now I’m going to take my skills and have my grand opening.”

Kennesaw State celebrates winners of 2013-2014 Presidential Diversity Awards

Ceremony honors principles of diversity, equity, transparency and shared governance

(Pictured L-R) Jordan Cameron, Jodie Sweat, Sgt. Jonathan Dotson, Laura Davis, Flora Devine, Yen Rodriguez, Michael Sanseviro and Erik Malewski. Photo credit: David Caselli 

 

Kennesaw State University Chief Diversity Officer Erik Malewski bestowed the 2013-2014 Presidential Diversity Awards on seven individuals in April. The second annual event, held at the Prillaman Auditorium in KSU’s Health and Human Services Building, highlighted the University’s continued growth in its diverse population and its efforts to create a campus climate of respect and inclusiveness.

Guest speaker Beverly Guy-Sheftall, the founding director of the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College and adjunct professor at Emory University’s Institute for Women’s Studies, praised Kennesaw State for its progress to date on race, ethnicity and inclusion.

However, she reminded the audience that there is much more work to be done, and she called on all institutions of higher learning to increase diversity among faculty and students.

“We must believe we can eliminate every fear or prejudice,” Guy-Sheftall said. “We have the power to change the world in which we live.” 

The Presidential Commissions on Disability Strategies and Resources, Gender and Work Life Issues, GLBTIQ Initiatives, Racial and Ethnic Dialogue, Sustainability, and Veterans Affairs called for nominations to recognize individuals who have exemplified the mission of each commission. Malewski said the Presidential Diversity Awards, which represent important campus initiatives, pay tribute to the principles of diversity, equity, transparency and shared governance.

Award winners

Jordan Cameron, IT client support professional in the Distance Learning Center, received the Carol J. Pope Award for Distinction in the Disability Strategies and Resources category. Her nomination noted “she is a leader in educating colleagues about the importance of making web-based learning materials accessible for all students. As a result of her advocacy, DLC Instructional Designers are helping online faculty across the university focus more on making their courses 508 compliant, and thus more accessible for all KSU students.” 

Laura Davis, coordinator of Gender and Women's Studies and associate professor of English, received Outstanding Contribution Award in the Gender and Work Life Issues category. Davis’ nomination highlighted “her commitment to promoting an inclusive campus environment, the initiatives she has taken in developing projects addressing gender and work life issues, and the incredible effort she puts forth on a daily basis. Davis is passionate about working to increase awareness of gender and work life issues at Kennesaw State and in the larger community.”

Michael Sanseviro, dean of Student Success and part-time instructor of education, received the Teresa M. Joyce Award for Excellence in the GLBTIQ Initiatives category. His nomination noted that “he approaches his role with big-picture thinking, while remaining sensitive to the needs of the diverse populations of our community. Each of his accomplishments not only illustrates improvements to diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, but also leaves a legacy for current and future members of the GLBTIQ population.”

Two individuals, Flora Devine and Yen Rodriguez, received the R.O.H. Social Justice Award in the Racial and Ethnic Dialogue category. (R.O.H. honors three retired faculty members, Rosa Bobia, Oral Moses, and Harold Wingfield.)

Devine, general counsel and special assistant to the president, was selected as a great example of a pioneer for racial and ethnic diversity at Kennesaw State University. Her nomination noted “the programs that she has put into place address diversity in areas of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. Devine continues to champion for all women and persons of color.”

Rodriguez, a KSU graduate student, was selected as "a champion for those who are voiceless and unable to fight for themselves." His nomination noted that “because of his perseverance, many victories have been won in his own life and in the lives of others. With more people like Rodriguez in the world, justice will be served and equality will be the norm.”

Jodie Sweat was selected to receive R.C. Paul Excellence in Sustainability Award. Her nomination noted her ongoing efforts implementing and promoting sustainable practices as the new standard of operating practice for the Physical Plant Division. “Under her direction, the utilities team’s energy-saving initiatives have resulted in significant cost savings; chemical use has been reduced by 40%; and recycling efforts have been increased through a single stream recycling program.”

Sgt. Jonathan Dotson, U.S.M.C was selected to receive the Excellence in Service and Leadership Award. “After several deployments," noted his nomination, "Dotson has continued to set an exemplarily example of leadership and service by serving as an officer in the Semper Fi Society, advocating for veterans as a Senator with the KSU Student Government Association, and serving as a peer mentor with the Veterans Resource Center.” Passionate about assisting his fellow veterans, his determination has been instrumental in the development of several “veteran friendly” policies at KSU.

By Robert S. Godlewski

 

Dallas man wins award for helping veterans

Name of Publication: 
The Marietta Daily Journal / Neighbor Newspapers
Excerpt of Article: 
by Adam Elrod
aelrod@neighbornewspapers.com
May 08, 2013 08:54 AM | 54 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Iraq War veteran Derek Ridings, winner of the Kennesaw State University’s Excellence in Service and Leadership Award from the Presidential Commission on Veterans Affairs, stands with the American flag outside his Dallas home.
Iraq War veteran Derek Ridings, winner of the Kennesaw State University’s Excellence in Service and Leadership Award from the Presidential Commission on Veterans Affairs, stands with the American flag outside his Dallas home.

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A Dallas resident was recently honored with an award for his service with military veteran students at Kennesaw State University.

University officials presented Derek Ridings, 28, with the first Excellence in Service and Leadership Award from the KSU Presidential Commission on Veterans Affairs on April 22.

Ridings’ award was among six given to students from presidential commissions representing such areas as disability strategies and racial dialogue, said Chief Diversity Officer Erik Malewski in an email.

“The nomination highlighted his commitment to helping veterans transition to college and ensuring they receive the support they need to progress toward graduation,” Malewski said.

Ridings, an Army veteran, was raised in Cobb County and graduated from McEachern High School in 2002.

After graduation Ridings served as a military policeman in the Army. While enlisted he did three tours in Iraq totaling 38 months before leaving the military in 2008.

He started classes at Kennesaw in 2010 and is a history major planning to graduate in December, he said.

Ridings is in his third semester working at the university’s Veterans Resource Center.

“I probably put most time into advocating [for veterans],” Ridings said.

He has served as a student government senator for student veterans. His work helps represent the needs of the soldiers as they transition from active duty to college students. “They are two very different activities,” he said.

Ridings said one of his most important jobs is helping veteran students receive their money from the federal government to pay for school, Ridings said.

“We ran into some delays with financial aid,” he said.

This created a problem on what the veterans were able to afford, he said.

“Going to school on a GI Bill [federal benefits for veterans’ service] is not supposed to be a hardship,” Ridings said. He said his work advocating for veterans on the student government led to the award.

Ridings said he is humbled by winning the award, and being able to be the face for those helping veterans.

Malewski said, “It is the effort of individuals like Mr. Ridings that makes possible our recognition as a veteran-friendly campus.”

Read more: Neighbor Newspapers - Dallas man wins award for helping veterans

Kennesaw State recognized for helping U.S. servicemen and women go to college

VetDay.jpg

Servicemembers Opportunity College Consortium advances educational opportunities  

KENNESAW, Ga.  (Sept. 13, 2012) — The Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges Consortium (SOC) honored Kennesaw State’s efforts to help members of the U.S. military attain a college education by designating the school a member of the prestigious organization.

Kennesaw State joins the ranks of only 6 percent of accredited U.S. institutions of higher learning. This year, only 1,900 of 31,487 institutions are SOC designees.

“Kennesaw State is proud to accept this honor on behalf of the 2,500 active and retired military servicemembers and their family members who are currently enrolled in our graduate and undergraduate degree programs,” said Provost W. Ken Harmon. “We believe our commitment to the servicemember is demonstrated through our actions, words and deeds. Becoming a member of the SOC validates our desire to enhance access of servicemembers and their families to higher educational programs.”

Created in 1972, the SOC provides educational opportunities to servicemembers around the globe who may have difficulty completing their college degrees because they frequently move from place to place.

“This is an important day for Kennesaw State because it recognizes our commitment to helping servicemembers gain access to higher education,” said Bob Mattox, assistant dean and director of Student Success Services. “This distinction, coupled with the designation of Kennesaw State as a ‘Military Friendly School’ by G.I. Jobs magazine tells everyone we welcome servicemembers.”  

The SOC functions in cooperation with 15 higher education associations, the Department of Defense, and Active and Reserve Components of the Military Services to improve postsecondary education opportunities for servicemembers worldwide.

As a member of the SOC, the University affirms its commitment to fair, equitable, and effective policies and practices that recognize and deal with the special conditions faced by military students who want to obtain a college education. 

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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 90 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including doctorates in education, business and nursing, and a Ph.D. in international conflict management. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing population of 24,100 students from more than 130 countries.

Purple Heart winner's new mission is to help veterans

Name of Publication: 
The Marietta Daily Journal
Excerpt of Article: 
by rjohnston@mdjonline.com
May 30, 2012 04:09 PM

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Purple Heart winner s new mission is to help veterans

Marine Receives Purple Heart

 

Retired Marine Sgt. Monroe Seigle of Holly Springs, a 2001 graduate of Marietta High School, receives his Purple Heart from his uncle Jerry Ritchie of Marietta, left, who is a Vietnam veteran and a recipient of the Bronze Star on Wednesday morning at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.  Seigle was serving in Iraq in 2006 when he was injured by an improvised explosive device and received a concussion.  STAFF/LAURA MOON.

 

MARIETTA — When Monroe Seigle was growing up, he always knew he wanted to be a Marine.

In 2001 at the age of 21, Seigle realized his dream to be one of a few good men and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

On Wednesday, more than 11 years later and six years after he was injured while on duty, the 32-year-old earned the Purple Heart for his sacrifices for his country. The honor was a long time coming.

Today, the Marietta High School graduate wants other veterans to know they might now be eligible for the medal bestowed on members of the military injured by enemy forces, but whose injury was at one time not considered severe enough to merit the award.

Seigle, now married and the father of two, also plans to devote his life to helping other veterans. He is graduating from Kennesaw State University in December, the first step on that journey.

Seigle was injured by an improvised roadside bomb while on duty in Iraq in 2006. He suffered a concussion and was transported by helicopter to a field hospital.

He later returned to active duty.

A sergeant at the time, Seigle was a combat correspondent for the Marines attached to an infantry unit.

“The vehicle I was in rode over an IED in the road, and I was hit in the head in the bombing incident. The other person was also injured, mostly in the face,” Seigle said of the bombing.

Seigle, who grew up in Marietta, medically retired from the military in 2009, three years after his accident and after he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

“I wanted to be a Marine since I was a young man, as soon as I graduated high school I enlisted and went to boot camp at Paris Island,” he said.

“The Marine Corps was not just a career, but my life,” Seigle said.

From boot camp, he was sent first to Hawaii, then California, before the tour to Iraq with the Third Battalion, Third Marines.

After leaving the service, Seigle enrolled at KSU and is set to earn a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages, and then enter the master’s program in conflict management.

“There are lots of things I want to do for other veterans,” he said. “I want to make sure they are treated fairly by the military. If they have post traumatic stress disorder, they often make mistakes, and I want to make sure they get the proper help and support.”

Seigle said they often self-medicate with alcohol or lash out at others.

“The Vietnam generation came home from war and were punished, rejected by society, they were you have to prove yourself before you get compensation,’ Seigle said. “They had no where to live.”

“I just want to be a driving force behind positive changes in how war veterans are treated by military branches of the service while still in active duty,” Seigle said.

Seigle had a level two concussion when injured, and under military code at the time the Purple Heart was awarded to level three victims.

The revisions were made earlier this year and now other concussions from enemy encounter and doctor confirmed are eligible for the honor.

“I want others to know that if they had a concussion, they can look in to whether they deserve it,” Seigle said.

Video below is courtesy of our news partner Fox 5 Atlanta

Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal - Purple Heart winner s new mission is to help veterans

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cobb County News 4:47 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, 2012 

Georgian among first to be awarded Purple Heart for concussion

 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Monroe Seigle doesn’t remember the moment of impact. It was April 16, 2006. Having just completed a mission, his U.S. Marine unit was convoying back to Hadifah, a town in northern Iraq, when the Humvee hit a roadside bomb.

Monroe Seigle, a former Marine Master Sgt.,hugs his son,  Monroe, Jr.,  after receiving  the Purple Heart  Wednesday May 31, 2012 for a head injury he suffered in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com Monroe Seigle, a former Marine Master Sgt.,hugs his son, Monroe, Jr., after receiving the Purple Heart Wednesday May 31, 2012 for a head injury he suffered in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

 

“It was a huge explosion and the gunner’s face was shredded by shrapnel,” said Seigle, 32, a native of Marietta and a senior at Kennesaw State University. “I was stunned and I remember being in a ditch with debris raining down on me. I remember being in a daze.”

Seigle was rushed to a medical unit, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He was out of the hospital and back in action in two days. The gunner got a Purple Heart, but because Seigle wasn't knocked unconscious and didn't have an open wound, he didn't get a medal.

“Someone mentioned that I should have gotten one, but I didn’t even think about getting a Purple Heart,” Seigle said. “I was just ready to go back out there.”

But Wednesday, the third anniversary of his discharge from the Marines, Seigle was awarded his Purple Heart in a quiet ceremony at Dobbins Air Force Base.

Seigle, according to state officials, is the first Georgian to retroactively receive a Purple Heart after the Department of Defense’s 2011 decision to change the criteria to specifically include concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries.

The move, which means that possibly thousands of Purple Heart medals will now go to troops like Seigle, recognizes the changing nature of war and increased science about concussions.

“A lot of veterans who are probably and possibly eligible for a Purple Heart don’t know the criteria has changed,” said Douglas J. Middleton, senior vice commander of the Georgia Military Order of the Purple Heart. “Hopefully, now others might say, that sounds like my story.”

The criteria for the Purple Heart award states that an injury must have been caused by enemy action or in action against the enemy, and require medical treatment.

But it was often difficult to determine when a mild traumatic brain injury or a concussive injury that did not result in a loss of consciousness or blood was serious enough.

“Before, it was pretty much, you had to bleed to get a Purple Heart,” said Middleton, an Army veteran who suffered a leg injury in Vietnam.

The Army began reviewing how Purple Hearts were awarded for battlefield concussions in 2010 after an investigative series by NPR and ProPublica revealed how hard it was for soldiers to get medals after the injury.

“We are going to have traditionalists, who say otherwise, but those guys are putting themselves at risk just like the rest of us did,” said Dave Raper, a member of Chapter 576 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart in Alpharetta.

Raper has two Purple Hearts from his service as a Marine in Vietnam -- one for an AK-47 shot to the left arm and the other from a grenade attack that injured his right arm.

“The first thought is that [a concussion injury] it is not real. But let’s examine what happens when that Humvee gets hit and those soldiers are flying around in there,” Raper said. "This is serious.”

Concussions have been a major issue recently, as hundreds of retired NFL players sued the league, claiming their memory loss, chronic headaches and other disorders stem from mismanaged concussions during their playing careers.

According to a U.S. Army spokeswoman, since 9/11 there have been 28,910 Purple Hearts awarded for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But experts estimate that more than 80,000 members of all the armed forces have suffered concussions since 2001 in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly from roadside bombs.

“Warfare has changed,” Middleton said. “This makes sense, because the wounds manifest themselves differently. In World War I, they were getting gassed. Things are much more sophisticated now.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., co-chairman of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, estimates that since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 29,000 Marines have been diagnosed with some form of traumatic brain injury and 20,000 of those were considered mild.

“When I heard that our soldiers were being denied the due respect, simply because they absorbed an injury with no blood, I said this can’t be. I thought I read it wrong,” said Pascrell, who lobbied the DOD for the changes. “Every soldier that puts his life on the line deserves the Purple Heart.”

KSU Honors One of Its Own

Name of Publication: 
Kennesaw Patch
Excerpt of Article: 

A memorial service was held Friday on the campus green for 1st Lt. Jonathan Walsh, the first KSU alum to die in battle.

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U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (L) greets 1st Lt. Jonathan Walsh's family to pay his respects.
 

Kennesaw State Helps Vets Come Home

Name of Publication: 
Huffington Post via Kennesaw Patch
Excerpt of Article: 

Student veterans at the university are leading the way in defining what it means to be a veteran-friendly campus.

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Kennesaw State University’s Veterans Resource Center, the first of its kind in Georgia, is making strides to address the needs of a growing population of student veterans.

As the state's third-largest university, KSU has seen its student veteran population double the past two years.

The center's director, Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Frank Wills, says the largely student-run center aims to serve as a "one-stop shop" for veterans as they transition into college.

The center is helping to put Kennesaw State on the map as a leader among veteran-friendly campuses. G.I. Jobs' 2012 list ranks the university in the top 15 percent of military-friendly schools nationwide.

“The Veterans Resource Center is a need,” Wills says. “We’re in a wartime effort. Let’s be there where the communities weren’t there as far as the Vietnam eras were concerned. I mean, personally, we’re making up for a lot of mistakes.”

“We haven’t seen the likes of this since World War II. Coupled with the economy, the (student veteran) population just exploded.”

Back on the Homefront

“Right now, we’re seeing an influx we’ve never seen before in higher education,” Wills says of the student veteran population.

He says the number of veterans at KSU has increased from about 300 in 2009 to more than 700.

Of the more than 2.5 million American troops who have served since 2001, Wills says about 800,000 attended school last year, "so we’re talking about a third of the people who have served."

Student veterans used to make up maybe 1 percent of a typical university’s student population—now that number can be anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent, Wills says, noting that the increase "happened overnight."

He attributes the surge to a massive influx of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the implementation of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill in 2009. The bill provides tuition and housing support to men and women who have served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We haven’t seen the likes of this since World War II,” Wills says of the law. “Coupled with the economy, the (student veteran) population just exploded.”

Wednesday, the House passed a bill that offers tax credits to employers who hire unemployed veterans. About 240,000, or 12.1 percent of post-9/11 veterans, were unemployed in October, compared with a national unemployment rate of 9 percent.

The rate is even higher among America's wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans; more than a quarter of them are estimated to be unemployed.

A Grassroots Movement

KSU student and Navy veteran John Breckenridge has been with the university's Veterans Resource Center since its inception about two years ago. He says the center started as a loosely knit group of veterans who wanted to help other veterans.

"You’re a service member or a veteran. You want to go to college. You come to us and go, 'Look, man, I want to go to college. What do I do?' " Breckenridge says.

"First thing we tell them is 'These are your benefits. You have to own them. We can’t do it for you.' "

KSU leadership took note of the students' efforts. The center officially opened in 2010 with the support of the university and the arrival of Wills—the first professional to be hired for an on-campus Veterans Resource Center in the state.

The former Marine and Combat Action Ribbon recipient previously worked at Mississippi State's Center for America’s Veterans. Wills helped organize Student Veterans of America, a coalition of student veterans groups on college campuses across the United States. He describes the effort as a grassroots movement of veterans coming together to define their place in the university system.

"These are your benefits. You have to own them. We can’t do it for you."

Wills says he connected with Kennesaw State student veteran leaders during a Mississippi State-hosted forum on the meaning of the term "veteran-friendly."

He says the meeting entailed a free exchange of ideas among the student veteran community: "Let’s sit down and just me and you talk about it over some chips and a Pepsi."

Addressing Student Veterans' Needs

Student veterans face a number of unique challenges. There are the physical and psychological scars of war, along with the economic and social obstacles that come with readjusting to civilian life.

According to a 2010 survey of nearly 11,000 student veterans, one in five combat veterans reported at least one disability—twice the rate of nonmilitary students. Full-time first-year combat veterans reported spending “twice as much time working and about six times as many hours on dependent care” as their nonveteran peers.

The report also found that student veterans were “generally less engaged and perceived lower levels of support from their campuses."

"Veteran-friendly means having people on campus that understand and are aware of the veteran population," Wills says.

That involves accepting American Council on Education recommendations for military credit and having veteran-friendly withdrawal policies and a military tuition deferment plan in place, he says.

At the student level, veteran-friendly means having a strong ROTC, an active student veterans club and veteran representation in student government, Wills says.

Traditionally, colleges have a single person on campus who serves as a liaison between the school and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Wills says.

But KSU's Veterans Resource Center is a division of Student Success Services. Student veterans in the work-study program staff the center. Wills and his team counsel other veterans about their educational options, guide them through the college application process and advise them on the benefits they're entitled to.

The center also offers a mentoring program and serves as a doorway to other services, such as financial and psychological counseling.

"As a veteran, you’re largely a nontraditional student," Wills says. "You’re dealing with a 10-year war with people with a heightened level of training that now are coming back into school. And they have a combat experience that they’re bringing back to the classroom."

He adds: "You’re talking about financial, psychological, counseling (and) social needs."

A Sense of Community

KSU student and Veterans Resource Center worker David Carper says he serves multiple roles as transition coordinator, office manager, internship supervisor and payroll specialist.

The 28-year-old served in the Army infantry for the better part of a decade in Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait, among other places.

The biggest challenge he faced after ending his military service and entering college: "The lack of accountability in the civilian world."

"In the military, you’re taught to take ownership whether you succeed or fail," Carper says. "On the civilian side, that lack of accountability made it very difficult to build working relationships with people who’d never been in the military."

But Carper says he found a shared sense of community and purpose through his work at the Veterans Resource Center.

"It’s actually quite comforting," he says. "Your experiences with people, whether they’re like-minded or not, it automatically builds a rapport."

He says most veterans don’t know one another, "but once they’re introduced to each other, they feel like they’ve known each other for years. That camaraderie is there. It’s just a matter of putting those two people together."

KSU student and center worker Richard Sisk, 25, entered the Army infantry at the age of 17, straight out of high school. He says financial problems were his biggest issues when he re-entered civilian life.

"My favorite part of the job is knowing that I'm helping other people that are like me—that have been through, that are going through the same problems that I’m going through. It’s familiar, and it’s gratifying to help people," he says.

"Man, it’s done everything for me," Sisk says of the center. "It’s all about the shared experiences and the mentorship. Frank’s been a big mentor to me."

Going forward into the center's second year, Wills says he hopes to do more community outreach. In the long term, his vision is to make the Veterans Resource Center a "360-degree approach" to serving the veteran community.

The fact that student veterans compose the core of the center is what makes it so special, Wills says.

"I just kind of drive the train. I set the structure," he says. "But without that nucleus of that student experience—that is what makes us unique."

This article is part of "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream," our ongoing series about how people in Kennesaw are adapting to the challenges of life in the 21st century. You can find more Dispatches from across the country at The Huffington Post.

We'll also be doing a series of profiles on student veterans at KSU in an effort to learn more about the university's veteran community—one story at a time.

Related Topics: Afghanistan Veterans, G.I. Bill, Iraq Veterans, Kennesaw State University, Veterans Resource Center, dispatches, and student veterans  

KSU Eases Veteran Transition to College

Name of Publication: 
Fox 5, "Good Day Atlanta"
Excerpt of Article: 

Updated: Monday, 26 Sep 2011, 6:42 AM EDT
Published : Monday, 26 Sep 2011, 6:34 AM EDT

By MARC TEICHNER/myfoxatlanta

KENNESAW, Ga. - The sluggish economy coupled with the new GI Bill has led to an explosion in veterans heading back to college.

At Kennesaw State, they've seen the veteran student population nearly double in the last couple of years.

So the school is taking steps to ease their transition into college.

KSU's veteran support network was started by the college's veteran students but the school saw a need and ended up backing the effort with money, resources and leadership.

They've served their country and now they are back state-side, moving into the next phase of their lives.

Kennesaw State is trying to ease that transition for it's veteran students.

Welcome to KSU's Veterans Resource Center -- a one stop shop for veterans helping to guide them through the educational system.

"They can come here and we're going to take care of every need that they have," said veteran and KSU student Donna Flippen.

"This is a place where we can hang out and talk, we can do homework," said veteran and KSU student John Breckenridge.

John Breckenridge served on a sub fleet in the navy and helped set up the center. He says the center is a place where veterans can gather with other veterans.

"You feel like you have a home. You're not just wondering around in between classes wondering what am I going to do, whatever," said Breckenridge.

The center was originally student driven but a year ago FSU hired Frank Wills to run the place, making it the first college funded veteran center in the state.

"About two years ago KSU realized there a unique need to serve veterans coming back into school. There are specific challenges that they have that normal students aren't aware of," said Frank Wills of the KSU Veterans Resource Center.

But the center is just the beginning of KSU's commitment to its veteran community. There's also a designated veteran member of the student senate and veteran club, which helps builds social ties.

"I didn't know but a couple people when I got here. If it wasn't for the Veterans Club, I won't know anybody at school," said veteran and KSU student Steven Sayegh.

A national magazine even named KSU one of the most military friendly colleges in the nation.

"Veterans can always spot a veteran," said veteran and KSU student Davis Carper.

David Carper served nine years in the Army, including a tour in Iraq. He says the steps taken by KSU have definitely improved his college experience.

"I've made a wealth of connections. I know hundreds of people on this campus because of this center," said Carper.

KSU gets calls from colleges all over the country looking for advice about setting up veteran centers. While Kennesaw was the first, officials say there are now three of them in Georgia with more expected in the future.

 

Please click on the link below to watch the Veterans Resource Center stories that aired throughout Sept. 26 on Fox 5, WAGA-TV:

 http://www.kennesaw.edu/ur/video_files/Fox5_VeteranCenter.mov
 

Leaders, KSU, Almost Autumn

Name of Publication: 
Kennesaw Patch
Excerpt of Article: 

Here are 5 things you need to know in Kennesaw for Sept. 20.

By Donna Espy-Rypel

... 2. Kennesaw State University continues to make headlines around the country. KSU's first-year program was recognized by U.S.News & World Report as one of the best in the country in its 2012 “Best Colleges” issue out this week. This marks the ninth consecutive year that KSU’s first-year program has been recognized in the prestigious annual college rankings. KSU President Daniel S. Papp also announced the university’s designation as a “Military Friendly School” by G.I. Jobs magazine. The honor recognizes the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members and veterans as students.

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