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Twenty-two UW-Eau Claire Students on Military Leave Spring Semester

RELEASED: Jan. 7, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — At least 22 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students will be on military leave during the spring 2009 semester, many of them part of the Wisconsin National Guard's February deployment of up to 3,500 soldiers who will mobilize for a one-year mission that will take them to Iraq.

"We do everything we can for our students to ensure their deployment won't negatively impact their academic standing," said Marc Goulet, interim associate dean of students at UW-Eau Claire, who has met individually with many of the students who will be deployed.

Some of the students who will be on military leave for the spring semester will be on their second deployment, while others are leaving for the first time, Goulet said.

"These students are making an incredible sacrifice," Goulet said. "In addition to everything else, they are delaying their education sometimes multiple times to serve their country. We try to be as supportive as possible so they can be successful when they return to campus."

When students are on a military leave, they continue to be part of the UW-Eau Claire community, Goulet said. Their campus e-mail stays active so they can connect with friends when they have Internet access, they keep their passwords so they can access the university's intranet, faculty often stay in touch with students who are deployed, and the university contacts students with important dates and reminders when they are preparing to return to campus, he said.

"They still are very much a part of our campus community and we want them to feel connected and supported regardless of the length of their deployment," Goulet said. "Those connections are important during their deployment but also will help as they transition back to campus and civilian life."

While UW-Eau Claire has worked closely with student veterans for decades, it expects the number of veterans enrolling to increase given the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Goulet said. More than 200 veterans are enrolled for the spring 2009 semester, he said, noting that not all veterans identify themselves as veterans so the number is likely even higher.

In anticipation of a larger number of veterans needing services, a Veterans Advisory Committee which includes student veterans, alumni veterans and staff representatives from multiple offices that would likely interact with veterans has been reviewing services and resources the university provides to military veterans, said Bonnie Isaacson, co-chair of the committee and an adviser to nontraditional students.

"Our offices were all doing things individually for veterans but we know we can be more effective by coming together regularly to share information or concerns," said Isaacson, noting that while UW-Eau Claire's Veterans Services Office assists veterans in applying for their G.I. Bill benefits and advises them about other benefits available from the state and federal governments, many other campus offices also work closely with veterans. "Our advisory committee's work is ongoing but I'm encouraged by what we've accomplished so far."

As a result of the committee's work, the university has enhanced its efforts to publicize veterans' services to current and prospective students, reactivated the student Veterans Club, created a support group for veterans and hosted an all-campus forum to discuss veterans' transitions to civilian life and becoming students, Isaacson said.

"Our student veterans have had different experiences than our traditional students so we need to ensure their needs are being met," said Isaacson, who now also is part of a UW System Committee on Veterans Issues. "By including student veterans on our advisory committee, we've been able to better identify the opportunities and challenges faced by this student population."

The campus committee also has worked to create stronger connections between the university and community groups that support veterans, Isaacson said. For example, a representative from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development who also is a veteran and UW-Eau Claire alumnus is a member of the campus advisory group, she said.

While UW-Eau Claire focuses on student needs, it also tries to support community members with family or friends who are deployed, Isaacson said. The university's Women's and Gender Equity Center hosts a support group for the loved ones of people who are deployed, she said. The group meets on campus but is open to people from the greater Eau Claire community, she said.

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JB

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