When living on Mercyhurst campus, it’s rare that a week goes by when you do not see a student in an ROTC uniform pass by. Now, Mercyhurst University is taking strides to become an even more military-friendly educational environment.
Chris Coons, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, explained that this would mean providing “the services of recruitment, outreach, advising, registration, benefits…that allow veterans to come here and be comfortable to be students.”
The initial effort for the “military friendly” motion was made in August of 2012 when Mercyhurst created the position of Veteran Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator.
The movement has been on hold as of late, since Jay Breneman, the person originally hired for the position a year ago, has since left. However, Associate Vice President Coons expects to hire a new Veteran Coordinator “within the next two weeks.”
“We really take student veterans seriously,” Coons said. “We want to make sure that they have the best experience possible…We want to make sure that the most important aspects of their time here are being answered by this position [of Veteran Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator].”
Stephen Zidek, assistant professor of Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst University, and an instrumental part in the push for this change, stated in an email interview that what separates a more military-friendly school from any other school is “offering relevant academic programs” and “participation in the American Council on Education program that translates military training, education and experience into college credit,” as well as “providing housing assistance options.”
“This should have happened years ago,” Zidek said, “but I don’t think our local veteran-student population had an active advocate, including among themselves.”
Zidek referred to a 2012 Huffington Post article that showed that “88 percent of the tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veteran students will drop out at the end of an academic year because they felt isolated and frustrated in a very foreign culture [student life].”
“If we (Mercyhurst) can significantly lower the stress of the veteran as he/she transitions to Mercyhurst, including having a dedicated, fully committed staff and a faculty that understands some of the challenges that students may have on entering college, then we’ll have a higher recruiting and retention level of our full-paying veterans,” Zidek said.
Both Coons and Zidek also talked about the benefits of having more student veterans attending Mercyhurst, with Coons noting that “they add so much to the classroom… and I think our traditional students can learn a lot from student veterans” particularly in classes and majors such as Criminal Justice and Intelligence Studies.
By making this stride to reach out to veterans, Zidek says that “we not only benefit the student veterans themselves, but also Mercyhurst, our local community and our country.”
“Improvements have been made,” Zidek concluded, “but it’s easy to backslide on some of the progress. In the end, resilience and persistence is required by all if we want to remain a veteran friendly university.”
For more questions contact Christopher Coons at email@example.com or professor Stephen Zidek at firstname.lastname@example.org.