Campus organizations support veteran students

Kali Summers, executive officer and program manager of the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families, is in charge of helping train the community on military culture. (Jessica Robbins | The Collegian)

The K-State campus is located about 17 miles from Fort Riley, one of the largest army bases in the country, and naturally sees a large amount of veterans enrolling to continue their education.

In Fall 2014 alone, 23 percent of all students at K-State were nontraditional, which includes the veteran population. Many of these veteran students come to campus not knowing what services the university offers to support and assist them during their time at K-State.

One such student is David Baker, a nine-year army veteran and junior in geology, who came to K-State to further his education after leaving the army.

“I’ve heard about a few (services), particularly the one at the (K-State) Student Union, but I’m not sure what services that they even provide to the veterans, or how to even go about finding more information about them,” Baker said. “I know that some of them help with more of the psychological issues of adapting to the academic community and trying to fit back into this community.”

This service provided by the Union is located on the second floor in the Bluemont West Room, which is available to veterans and nontraditional students, according to active-duty veteran and National Guard 2nd Lt. Joshua Reed, director and coordinator of the Office of Non-Traditional and Veteran Student Services. The room was furnished by NTVSS, which is one of the largest departments on campus.

“(The office) does everything from offer scholarships to getting students in contact with the correct child care services to offering general advice on course work and essays,” Reed said. “ We even help with military issues like applying for the GI Bill benefits or a VA loan.”

Reed said he knows it’s important to get the message out to veterans and nontraditional students so they can take advantage of the opportunities his department provides, mainly because he was in their shoes just a few years ago.

“I didn’t even know that this department even existed when I came back here for my degree,” Reed said. “Nobody referred me to anything. No one told me that it was available to me.”

For Reed and his department, the goal is to have K-State veterans and nontraditional students know they are available for them.

“I want the university and our students to know that we are here, that we have your back,” Reed said. “I’m here to cater to the students that are here and are like, ‘I need to get a degree, I’ve had a professional career, and now I need to get a degree so I can move up,’ or ‘I have a family now, so I need to make more money.’ We’re here to back these types of students up.”

On campus, another department that works with the military community is the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families. The institute works with both military and veteran communities while also educating the surrounding communities about the culture of the military and the issues that veterans face.

“We do military culture training with the community, and I also do some with undergraduate students interested in working with military veterans, service members or their families when they graduate,” Kali Summers, family studies and human services executive officer and program manager, said. “We also provide opportunities and resources for service members and their families that may not have the appropriate resources.”

Summers said she and the Institute face similar issues to Reed and his department.

“We are trying to get our name and what we do (out), and this is the third time we’ve done the Season of Service events,” Summers said. “We’re trying to establish a regular routine of events. A challenge on campus for us is that a lot of students that aren’t military connected aren’t as interested in the programing or events that we have.”

The programs the institute puts on throughout the fall semester include speakers, lectures by authors, panels and the Manhattan Area Veteran’s Day Parade and Community Remembrance Ceremonies held on Nov. 11.

The next event the Institute is holding for the 2015 Season of Service is the Military Appreciation Day that is being held during the Nov. 5 football game against Baylor University in Bill Snyder Family Stadium.