Oakland University Aids Veterans In Their Next Mission

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Oakland University Aids Veterans In Their Next Mission

Oakland has won gold status for the second year in a row for veteran support services.

Oakland has won gold status for the second year in a row for veteran support services.

Nicole Morsfield

Oakland has won gold status for the second year in a row for veteran support services.

Nicole Morsfield

Nicole Morsfield

Oakland has won gold status for the second year in a row for veteran support services.

Mary Siring, Staff Reporter

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Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency has awarded Oakland University with the highest possible ranking for veteran friendliness for the second consecutive year.

Based on multiple factors, the 70 schools on this year’s list were grouped into bronze, silver and gold levels of recognition. OU was one of 41 schools to earn a gold level designation and one of 28 schools that fulfilled all seven criteria points.

These seven points include: an established process for identification of current student veterans; a veteran-specific website; an active student-operated veterans club or association; veteran-specific career services, resources, advising and/or outcome monitoring; on-campus veteran’s coordinator and/or designated staff point of contact; a system to evaluate and award credit based on prior military training and experience; and the monitoring and evaluation of student veteran academic retention, transfer and graduation rates.

“The one criteria that we were missing the first year was this office and myself, having a full-time dedicated veteran transition coordinator,” said Eric Wuestenberg, the coordinator of Veteran Support Services at Oakland. “It signifies our commitment to serving those who have served us and helping them in that transition.”

All of these components not only provide services and resources to Oakland veterans currently, but will attract and aid veterans in the future.

“I definitely look for military-friendly schools,” said Ashlee Hauxwell, a member of the Air Force and currently stationed in South Korea. “Either schools that offer military discounts of tuition, schools that allow for more flexible schedules, or even schools that are just understanding of military needs.”

Veteran Support Services offers knowledge and resources that helps veterans not only apply for benefits, but aids them in fully utilizing them. Wuestenberg recalls his own struggle with the transition to a university education as a single father using his GI bill, but never knowing or being advised to file for FAFSA.

“There’s a lot of things that are scary to us because it is the unknown,” Wuestenberg said. “Helping the veteran not only apply for the benefit but (know) how to utilize it and how to take full advantage of the opportunity is critical and that’s the reason why you have folks like myself on campus to help them learn from my mistakes.”

That fear of the unknown is a very common thread among veterans attending college after their service.

“I’m definitely worried about reintegrating into that kind of life,” Hauxwell said. “Living overseas, having different kinds of jobs and really most things about military life makes us feel different from civilians.”

Veteran Support Services provides a number of services to veterans besides financial aid advice and general advising, including a free print service for veterans and a book loan program. Books are either donated after their use or bought by the office, lightening the financial load on veterans during their time at Oakland.

Wuestenberg and the Veteran Support Services office is far from finished with their impact and is looking positively towards the future, hoping to upgrade to a bigger space and provide study spaces that are veteran friendly and a lounge for their visitors.

“It signifies our continued support and ‘over the top’ customer service,” Wuestenberg said. “That OU is invested in us and ensuring that we are there for them in completing that next mission.”