K-State’s sesquicentennial celebration kicked off last Thursday, and the ongoing festivities will include the dedication of the K-State Veterans Center. The Veterans Center, located on the ground floor of the K-State Student Union, is designed to give military-affiliated students a home on campus.
“The Veterans Center provides a community, and in addition to that, it provides a study place, a networking place and free computer usage to help with the academic transition as well,” said Suzanne Lueker, director of Non-Traditional and Veteran Student Services.
The Veterans Center is celebrating its second anniversary on Thursday. Lueker said she wanted to wait until K-State’s sesquicentennial celebration to dedicate the center.
“I purposely waited to do this for the two-year anniversary instead of the one-year, that way it could be one of the events during the 150-year celebration,” Lueker said.
Throughout its history, K-State has held a long partnership with the military, said Art DeGroat, director of military affairs and retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.
“The impact that military students, and particularly veterans, have had on the shaping of K-State as we know it today is profound and, in my opinion, somewhat understated,” DeGroat said. “Our institutional history fully captures the many positive changes that our veterans, administration and faculty have made over the years as a result of Kansas State University actively supporting our nation at war over six major conflicts. I hope we leverage the 150th celebration period to help tell these stories.”
Fort Riley and K-State work together to help active-duty soldiers, veterans and their families continue their education. These groups of people make up a small part of the student body but lend their unique experience to the community.
“I see them as a role model in leadership and they have a higher maturity level for the younger students to look up to,” said Nannette Easterling, adviser for veterans affairs at K-State.
Communication between veterans, non-traditional students and traditional students can encourage students to network and learn from the experiences of other students at K-State.
“Networking is important for students. I like to think if the traditional students and the non-traditional students communicate with each other, their network will grow,” Easterling said.
Throughout K-State history, the university has offered many programs for students involved with the military, including long-distance education, campus classes and off-campus classes offered through K-State at Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth.
The oldest program still offered to those who meet the requirements is the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which trains commissioned officers of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The program distributes scholarships for students that covers some or all of their tuition. Upon graduation, students are required to serve time in the armed forces for the training they have received through the university.
“The Officers’ Training Corp is an integral part of any university where it exists,” said Lt. Col. Robert Dixon, professor of military science.
The program dates back to 1863, when K-State was founded as a land-grant school under the Morrill Act of 1862. This act granted federal land to states to develop institutions of higher education.
One provision of the Morrill Act specified that all land-grant schools must provide military training, a requirement established by the United States Department of War to furnish a supply of officers in time of war.
“The Morrill Act had certain criteria that these schools had to meet, one of those criteria being military tactics, which was translated to a core of cadets,” Dixon said.
Active-duty soldiers, veterans and their families are able to attend school and pay for tuition under multiple federal bills.
The Montgomery GI bill provides up to 36 months of educational benefits. During active duty, the soldier signs up for the bill and has to meet certain requirements in order to obtain these benefits.
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program allows for veterans with service-related disabilities to receive training for a new career through a university, community college or trade school.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 provides 36 months of financial assistance to soldiers and veterans with at least 90 days of aggregate service after Sept. 11, 2001. These benefits can also be passed down to a dependent of the soldier or veteran.
“It’s wonderful that K-State and the Veterans Affairs Office have this relationship,” Easterling said. “It helps so many people to continue their education.”
K-State offers research, clinical and academic programs for families of military students as well through the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families.
The research programs include the Couples and Family Resiliency Project and the Financial Resiliency of Soldiers Project, which are designed to help soldiers and their families with the struggles of returning from combat.
The clinical programs include marriage and family therapy, financial therapy, communication disorders and athletic training. The academic programs include specialized graduate and undergraduate training programs and internships. A complete list of programs and other information can be found at militaryfamilies.k-state.edu.