Eight Keys to Success program gives military tips for colleges

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Students have experiences that separate them from other students on campus, but they may not be years of experience serving their country.

There are about 425 student veterans on campus that share a “camaraderie and pride,” said Amy Puffenberger, nontraditional student chair in Undergraduate Student Government.

In August, the University released information that it was involved in implementing the Eight Keys to Success, a national initiative to help veterans transition to college from service.

The hope with a program like this is that it will help veterans connect to others on campus, which is important because student veterans have a whole different set of experiences than other students.

“So many students have not been outside this little town, they haven’t experienced diversity,” Puffenberger said.

Sophomore Jessica Gregor, 24, served in the Air Force before coming to the University to get her degree in Applied Health Sciences.

She said she feels completely welcomed as a student at the University, but her experience as a veteran is different.

“I can’t really say much about that experience because there isn’t much of one,” she said. “All the inclusiveness they’re trying to claim for my veteran status I just don’t feel whatsoever.”

Barbara Henry, assistant vice president of Nontraditional and Transfer Student Services, said she may not be alone in feeling the loss of her veteran identity.

“Through programming with student veterans, we hope to address that issue,” she said.

Puffenberger is a veteran herself. She said she understands Gregor’s experience.

“Now that I’m on campus, I’ve kind of put that identity aside,” she said. “It seems to me that veterans and nontraditional students in general go to class and go home and don’t want to be involved, but maybe that’s a misconception.”

Eric Buetikofer, transfer adviser and recruiter in NTSS, advises students to get involved on campus by joining clubs and activities.

“I find too many veteran students who view BGSU as a place you take classes and go home,” he said. “The more they get connected on the BGSU campus, the more they feel like BGSU is a home.”

Senior Geoff Roberts, 26, was in the Army and said he thinks veterans just have a different approach to college than other students do.

“I think because we’ve seen the world,” he said. “We view education as more of a career builder. We’re just like everyone else in a sense but at the same time we’re different.”

Puffenberger said she wants students to know there are resources if they’re feeling the way Gregor does.

“We just need to let [veterans] know there’s people out there they can bring their issues and concerns to,” Puffenberger said.

One place students can bring their issues and concerns is USG, Puffenberger said.

The University is also making strides to be more welcoming to veterans through a national initiative called the Eight Keys to Success.

The Eight Keys to Success were developed by the Obama Administration, the Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

According to the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, they “are eight concrete steps that institutions of higher education can take to help veterans and service members transition into the classroom and thrive once they are there.”

When the University released the information, Gregor saw it and wrote to The BG News saying she wasn’t “actually seeing any real-world implementation over the last year that I’ve attended school here.”

Buetikofer said the University being recognized for the Eight Keys doesn’t mean veterans will notice a big change.

“We’ve been meeting these standards,” he said. “I don’t think they’re definitely going to see a big change … I think that might be a misconception.”

But the University is still going further in reaching out to veterans.

One of the programs the University hopes to implement is peer mentoring, Buetikofer said. The program will involve an upperclassman student veteran mentoring a first year student veteran, he said.

“The University has some great programs and great services … but I do think there’s work to be done,” Puffenberger said “[We need to] reach out to students and celebrate that aspect of their identities.”