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Award honors UW-Eau Claire for work with student military veterans

RELEASED: April 15, 2010

Jeffrey Ruh in Veterans Center at UW-Eau Claire
UW-Eau Claire's Veterans Center is one of the university's award-winning initiatives on behalf of military veterans and active-duty students. Above, Jeffrey Ruh, a senior kinesiology major, worked on a computer in the Veterans Center. Ruh is a veteran of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division who served from 1996-2004. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has been honored for its work to support military veterans and active duty students.

UW-Eau Claire earned first-place in UW-Extension's Adult Friendly Institution Incentive Plan awards program. As the winner, UW-Eau Claire will receive $10,000 to further its efforts for adult students.

"The reviewers were impressed with how you put your 'You Served — We Care' motto into practice," David Schejbal, dean of UW-Extension, wrote in a letter announcing the award. "The variety of specific actions you took and resources you secured to provide the welcome and support these veterans need will surely contribute to their success as students."

"Our campus has worked hard to make military veterans feel welcome and to provide the support and services these students need," said Bonnie Isaacson, nontraditional student adviser. "We feel honored to be recognized for our efforts."

The $10,000 award will help provide additional programming and services for students, faculty and staff, and will enhance what is currently done in the Veterans Center and for veteran students, Isaacson said.

UW-Eau Claire's award-winning initiatives included creating the Veterans Center (which opened in fall 2009), reactivating the campus Veteran's Club, and implementing a veteran student orientation.

The initiatives support UW-Eau Claire's "You Served — We Care" working motto, a motto that has emerged as the university serves a growing number of adult students who are currently active in the military or who are military veterans, Isaacson said.

"We've made huge strides in addressing their unique needs and concerns," Isaacson said. "The Veterans Center is a place for respite, study and programming. We incorporated a new student veteran orientation into our Adult Student Welcome, which provides information on veteran educational benefits, matches new students with a veteran mentor, and highlights campus and community resources. And the Veteran's Club, which had been inactive for several years, is now active and growing."

The steps taken by the university to better meet the needs of veteran students have been much appreciated, said David Jeske, a junior finance major from Auburndale who also is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.

"The efforts of the university have been tremendous and I couldn't be happier for what they do and continue to do," Jeske said.

The Veterans Center is of particular value to students who have served in the military, said Jeske, who visits the center daily.

"It's made a tremendous difference in the lives of our veterans by creating a positive environment for career guidance, employment help, VA healthcare assistance, and forging of new friendships," Jeske said. "It's a forever investment by the university that will pay off for a long, long time to come."

A common vision and collaboration among students, staff, faculty and the community resulted in the university's success, Isaacson said, adding that the Veteran Student Advisory Committee includes members from across the campus and in the community.

UW-Eau Claire surveyed students before moving forward on its initiatives, Isaacson said. The feedback helped guide the university's efforts, she said.

For example, a survey showed veterans favored a centrally located Veterans Center with extended hours of operation, Isaacson said. Survey respondents also said the center should have a lounge with computers and a printer, resource materials on veteran benefits, a kitchenette and meeting space, she said. The center was designed to meet those needs, she said.

Dozens of students now use the center every week, Isaacson said. Faculty and staff, community partners and veteran students hold regular office hours in the center, she said. Student veterans also receive counseling in the center through a polycom station that provides free and confidential counseling with a psychologist in Minneapolis.

For more information about the award, contact Bonnie Isaacson at 715-836-3259 or isaacsbj@uwec.edu. For information about services for veteran students, contact the Veterans Services Office at 715-836-3839.

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JB/DW

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