At the end of January, Northern Arizona University had the honor of hosting Ted Vogt, director of Arizona’s Department of Veteran Services. The entire afternoon was filled with activities related to our military veterans, concluding with a meeting of NAU veteran students at Flagstaff’s American Legion Hall.
As an Army brat (during his 20+ years in the Army, my father served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam), it made me proud that NAU and the state of Arizona take seriously serving those who served their country. NAU has a long history of serving our military service members and veterans. In fact, it would not be a stretch to say that the military was instrumental in there ever being an NAU.
During WWII, college enrollments dropped drastically because of the number of young men joining the military. In 1943, NAU’s (then Arizona State Teachers College) enrollments dropped to just 81 students, leading to the possibility of closing the college.
Enter the U.S. Navy’s V-12 college training program, which was created to build the Navy’s force of commissioned officers. Fortunately, NAU was selected as a V-12 site, leading to more than 400 sailors and Marines coming to campus during the summer of 1943. This influx of students averted the enrollment crisis and allowed the college to remain open.
In keeping with that tradition, NAU’s Franke College of Business recently opened what may be the first Veteran Student Center, dedicated to serving veteran students majoring in business. The center was made possible through the generous donation of one of our veteran alumni. This gentleman told a story that I’ve heard repeatedly: his time at NAU helped him make the transition from military to civilian life and put him on the path to personal and financial success.
The Veteran Student Center works in close coordination with NAU’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, which serves as advocates for active duty military, National Guard, reserve and veteran students. The success of this office has led to NAU receiving regional and national accolades for our success in supporting this worthy student population.
Our returning veterans face significant challenges. First, they must make the transition from military to civilian life. This is often a difficult transition, especially for those who experienced combat. The second transition is from a military job to a civilian career. The challenge here is how to translate the knowledge, skills and abilities gained in the military to those that are valued in the civilian world. The good news is that many are directly transferrable; skills such as the ability to lead diverse teams and to make decisions in high-pressure situations are valuable in both worlds. Finally, veterans who decide to return to school face the transition into the world of academia.
The Franke College of Business’s Veteran Student Center and NAU’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs are dedicated to helping veteran students make these challenging transitions. The success of our center and our veteran students is very important to me personally. I saw the challenges my father faced when he retired from the Army. It was a difficult transition for him, although he never let on and I didn’t realize it at the time. Helping our veterans lead successful civilian lives is a moral and ethical obligation. Although that alone justifies our activities, there are also benefits for all of our students and for our state. In my experience, military veteran students often serve as a stabilizing influence in their classrooms. Their life experiences can help their younger classmates mature. In addition, increasing our veteran student population will increase the diversity of our programs. More diversity on campus helps our students learn to navigate a diverse world. Educating our student veterans also improves Arizona’s economy. Having a quality business degree increases employment prospects, which brings about numerous economic benefits for the state. But even without these additional benefits, we should serve those who served us. It’s simply the right thing to do. FBN
Craig Van Slyke, Ph.D., is the dean of the W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University.
The W.A. Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University is home to approximately 3,000 undergraduate and Master’s students. The College’s faculty and staff are dedicated to the success of its students and the economic development of the region. For more information on The W.A. Franke College of Business, please see: http://www.franke.nau.edu/. I welcome comments and feedback on these columns. Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.