Iowa State designated as school that assists with veterans’ transition to college life


Jessica Darland/Iowa State Daily

Carolyn Ihde, graduate student in agricultural education and studies, volunteers at the lunch fundraiser for homeless veterans hosted by We Cypport Our Troops (And Each Other) on Sept. 10 on Central Campus.

Kelly Mcgowan

For veterans, transitioning from active duty to college comes with more challenges than most students face.

Jathan Chicoine, veteran services coordinator, said that the ISU Veterans Center works to diminish barriers to student success.

On Nov. 24, Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that Iowa State has been named a Certified Higher Academic Military Partner as part of the Home Base Iowa Act, a law signed in May which recognizes communities and educational institutions that provide resources to veterans.

“It is reiterating our commitment to providing the best support possible to veterans and their families,” Chicoine said.

University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Hawkeye Community College and University of Dubuque were also announced as partners.

For an institution to get this designation, it must meet criteria in the categories of on-campus veteran services, mindfulness of service member transitions and financial considerations.

Chicoine said that this was just the foundation. He was on the Home Base Iowa working group and has worked with the program from its start. He said that they will continue to build on it and find better ways to serve veterans.

In an October press release, Branstad said that the program is a step towards ensuring that service members have educational resources in their transition to civilian life.

“It can be a difficulty for veterans that are coming back [to college],” said Matthew Kots, veteran and sophomore in pre-business. “It’s not the same as the structured life that they are used to.”

Lt. Col. Richard Smith, professor and chairman of the military science and tactics department, said that the program emphasizes the veterans’ backgrounds.

“These aren’t typical coming-out-of-high-school college students,” Smith said. “They have different challenges, different perspectives.”

Kots said the designation will allow the Veterans Center to better advertise the benefits that are available to veterans. He has been working on ideas for Home Base Iowa to draw veterans to Story County, which may become a certified Home Base Iowa community. These include relocation grants and courses that would help veterans prepare for job interviews.

“It appears that veterans, once they receive their diploma, coupled with that military experience that they bring, are often in better positions to get jobs,” Chicoine said.

Kots said that veterans in the workforce can be more disciplined and able to follow directions.

One service the Veterans Center offers is assistance with military benefits, which meets a requirement under the Financial Considerations category for certification. Chicoine said that there are complexities surrounding these benefits which can cause uncertainty.

The center joined with education coordinators from Camp Dodge, a military installation in Iowa, and the finance office Dec. 3 to answer questions from veterans and ROTC cadets who are in the National Guard about accessing state and federal assistance.

Chicoine said that there can be discrepancies between military credits that transfer in as credit and those that actually fill requirements. As part of the Mindfulness of Service Member Transitions requirement, a team is being developed within each college at Iowa State to ensure consistency in acceptance of these credits.

Smith said that Chicoine has done a lot to bring together a community of veterans at the Veterans Center who understand the diverse experiences that each other have gone through.

Having the Veterans Center meets a requirement under On-Campus Veteran Resources for certification.

“To have some place where they can all come together is remarkable,” Smith said.

Chicoine said that camaraderie is consistent across this community.

“Simply by providing a space or opportunities to come together, those circles of support emerge organically,” he said. “We take care of one another. Any time you can have opportunities for people to connect around a shared experience that makes a big difference. There’s a lot of lessons learned, a lot of taking care of one another, taking care of your brothers and sisters.”

It is a close-knit community with a lot of resources, Kots said.

The Veteran Center located at 3578 Memorial Union. However, it is growing and looking for a space larger than the current office, lounge and study area.

“It’s neat that that’s accepted as part of the campus culture that we have so many veterans,” Smith said.