Ohio University has been recognized by G.I. Jobs magazine as a "military friendly school," based on its commitment to veteran and military students.
Graphic courtesy of: UCM
Recent graduate Michael Logue, a former U.S. Marine, has been instrumental in improving veterans' and military services at Ohio University.
Graphic courtesy of: UCM
Sep 12, 2011
By Monica Chapman
This special Compass series features the programs and initiatives through which Ohio University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends put the OHIO vision into practice every day.
Ohio University today joined the ranks of G.I. Jobs' Military Friendly Schools, according to a release by the magazine. The designation annually recognizes 20 percent of post-secondary institutions for commitment to military and veteran students.
This marks the second year that Ohio University has applied for the designation and its first year to make the cut, according to Assistant Director of the Allen Student Help Center Angela Lash, who served as the University's first coordinator of veterans' academic services from Sept. 2010 through July 2011.
Lash said the honor recognizes many steps that the University has taken, particularly over the last two years, to better serve students who are veterans, including new services, improved communication and enhanced collaboration with off-campus groups.
According to University College Dean David Descutner, the recognition owes to a great deal of work on the part of many individuals from many areas of the campus, including Student Affairs, University College, the Registrar’s Office, Enrollment Management, University Libraries and Student Senate, among others.
"Being named military friendly is a meaningful acknowledgment of the work of many colleagues on this campus and the regional campuses, as well as… our student veterans . It's something we're proud of. But it really is one small step towards more comprehensively understanding and meeting veterans' needs," he said.
A hero's advocate
The catalyst for recent progress, according to Descutner, is recent graduate Michael Logue , a former U.S. Marine who dedicated his academic career to improving veterans' and military services at Ohio University.
Between 2006 and 2010, Logue teamed up with fellow Marines to form and lead OHIO's Combat Veterans Club – the first club of its kind at Ohio University. He also served as the veterans' affairs commissioner for Student Senate and as a member of the Veteran's Support Committee.
Logue's advocacy resulted in the creation of Lash’s position by University College, with support from Enrollment Management. It also led University College and University Housing to expand the mission of the Commuter Lounge to include veterans for the first time this fall.
But perhaps Logue’s greatest mark on Ohio University is his proposal to establish an Office of Veterans Services. The proposed office would support OHIO's veteran population through academic advising and opportunities for personal development, such as mentoring programs, job-networking events, leadership development, and education abroad.
The initiative has already garnered $133,000 in support through the Veterans Service Fund. Key contributors to the fund include alumnus Ken Peak, who donated $25,000 and agreed to match subsequent gifts up to $65,000. Alumni Steve Schoonover, Arlene Greenfield and Gary Nakamoto have come forward with generous gifts, and Descutner has pledged to use his dean's discretionary fund to support the office.
Descutner said the Registrar’s Office has long had in place an office that helps veterans with educational benefits and re-enrollment, and veterans historically were well served by that office. The missing piece was a position dedicated to helping veterans with academic advising and academic support services – a position that Lash masterfully held last year, according to Descutner.
The goal is that the new veterans' academic services coordinator will manage the Office of Veterans Services. That individual's first charge, according to Descutner, will be assessing more systematically the need for services.
"We have to figure out what our veterans have in the way of needs and what our campus and its culture can provide to meet those needs. So it's going to be a good two- to three-year process before we're really even close to satisfied with what we're doing," he said.
Lash estimates that 550 student veterans and military personnel currently attend OHIO's main and regional campuses, based on educational benefits claimed through the VA. This includes about 270 military-affiliated students on the Athens' campus.
That number could grow higher based on a recent study by the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, which identified 2,388 veterans in Ohio University's surrounding counties – many of whom are not using their VA educational benefits.
Descutner said he believes the "military friendly" designation will enhance OHIO's ability to recruit more veteran students in the future. But striving to meet enrollment goals is not the main reason to improve services for this population, he said.
"Doing our very best to help veterans succeed in every way at Ohio University is fundamentally the right thing to do because these men and women have served their country and deserve our best efforts," he said.
As World War II ended, Ohio University President John Baker realized that neither the campus nor the surrounding community could educate and support the anticipated number of returning veterans eager to use their G.I. benefits.
Ohio University had experience offering courses beyond Athens through an extension program, established in 1909 by then-university President Alston Ellis, utilizing the talents of circuit-riding faculty, and eventually, traveling libraries. The demand for extension and correspondence courses continued to grow, resulting in the creation of "evening divisions" in Portsmouth and Zanesville in 1937.
Further developing the off-site model, Baker and other University administrators created "residence credit centers" to serve students in southeastern Ohio.
Baker informed Governor Frank Lausche and fellow university administrators around Ohio that the centers were temporary campuses created to serve the influx of students.
The campuses welcomed 859 students – at least half of them veterans – in fall 1946.
When enrollment reached a low of 458 students in 1952, University officials intended to close the branches. However, Albert Gubitz, director of the campuses, believed in making higher education more accessible, an argument supported by the communities served.
As former Vice Provost for University Outreach Charles Bird noted, "President Baker, to his everlasting credit, made an appointment with Governor Lausche and argued persuasively to continue these operations."