MISSOULA – The University of Montana is working to bolster veteran support and services on campus, including launching an effort to help students create degree plans and revitalizing the UM chapter of Student Veterans of America.
Several programs at UM have increased their advising services over the past few years with great success. Now, through the direction of the Undergraduate Advising Center, more than 40 advisers across campus will work with students receiving Veterans Affairs Education Benefits. This will help ensure that the veterans or children and spouses of vets have a declared major and a plan to keep on track with their degree.
The VA now requires students to have a degree plan if they receive the Education Benefit, and with supportive advising, students who may come to the University with a variety of skills and transfer credits based on their military experience can plot the best way to get the most from their education.
UM VETS Office Director Shawn Grove said this also will help demonstrate what many other programs on campus are discovering: Strong advising is a boon to students.
“One of the good things about the initiatives with the VA plan is we can hopefully prove that advising does help students,” Grove said.
And for those students who now must create a degree plan but maybe don’t know what they want to pursue, the VETS Office is working with the Office of Career Services to help students access career and interest evaluations to help them identify fields that may appeal to them and give them a good idea of career paths, salary expectations and work environments.
Since assuming the director position in mid-December, Grove has worked to improve support for veteran students on campus and also help better connect students to the services that already exist. One thing he said is especially important is for veterans to connect with one another.
The VETS Office, located on the southeast corner of campus, offers a lounge, a computer lab and a place to make that connection, and UM’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America recently became active again on campus. This semester, the group held early elections to fill the leadership ranks and recently helped the American Legion and Full Moon Saloon raise about $3,000 for the Montana Wounded Warriors Program.
“A lot of vets get out of the military and they go from a very tight-knit group of friends with shared experiences to being a college student who is older than a lot of their peers,” said SVA President Craig Misajet. “It can be hard for vets to find new groups of friends, and that is where the student veterans group comes in. We want to provide the same sense of camaraderie the vets had in the service, but in a civilian setting.
The SVA at UM is in place to provide a network of support to vets, from finding new friends to helping someone move,” Misajet said. “Ultimately the veteran will graduate, and when that happens we want them to look back at their involvement in the SVA and say that it helped them get there.”
Several other steps to help veteran students are in the works, including offering online scheduling options to better connect students to services across campus, as well as looking at how best to handle refunds for students or ways to verify vaccination records for those who have served in the military.
For more information call Grove at 406-243-5044 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.