Chapter of the Month: Marywood University

The student veterans of Marywood University are invested in success. Not only do they strive to recognize the contributions of their active-duty comrades, but they have also put a lot of time and hard work into the academic success of the veterans attending their institution and those living and working within the local area, encouraging a tradition of progress.

With their Operation: Tails for Troops program, this generous chapter worked to provide funds for service dogs to comfort troops suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and will be doing so again this year. Additionally, through the R-VETS program (Renewal-Veteran Education and Transition Services), these philanthropic student veterans focus on providing veterans in the community with access to postsecondary education by offering free introductory courses in the areas of Math, English, and Writing, along with additional preparatory, transitional services.

According to chapter president Christopher Smith, the value in the SVA chapter at Marywood University and its peers across the nation lies in the ability to start a dialogue. “With each generation of veterans, those previous are pushed to the wayside,” says Smith “SVA chapters give each generation of veterans the ability to meet and talk about their experiences as well as provide support for those who need it.”  A chapter sparks a vital conversation between those who are affiliated with and affected by the group, but also a more significant narrative.

Being a voice and face for veterans seeking to build their success in the eyes of your campus administration and the nation is the undertaking of each chapter member, and something that is immeasurably valuable. Were it not for chapters, “veterans would be more than likely to fall behind the rest of the country, which would be a disservice to the brave men and women who risked everything and asked for nothing.”

Vital chapters like these are the lifeblood of our national network, and are defining the transition process for thousands of servicemembers. The door to help yourself and other student veterans through understanding and advocacy is open, and now is the time to walk through it.


The Corporation for National and Community Service profiles one of SVA’s best and brightest, Tyler Wright, Outreach Coordinator participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program:

“I was looking for a way to assimilate back into society without losing the valuable experience of the Navy that I left behind,” said Wright. “I thought it was one way to give back to those service members less fortunate than I was. So I turned in my Navy blue for VISTA black.”
As an outreach coordinator with Student Veterans of America, Wright connects nearly 1,000 veterans-focused student organizations across the country to grant and funding sources. This effort ultimately helps strengthen these organizations so they can serve more former service members.
“As I help out other vets, I learn more about myself,” said Wright. “It just seems like it was somehow planned out that way for me to be here and I’m very thankful for it.”

————————————————————-
Tyler came on-board with SVA in the fall of 2013, and we’re proud of what he’s accomplished as a voice for our organization and student veterans.
Read the Full Article

The Corporation for National and Community Service profiles one of SVA’s best and brightest, Tyler Wright, Outreach Coordinator participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program:

“I was looking for a way to assimilate back into society without losing the valuable experience of the Navy that I left behind,” said Wright. “I thought it was one way to give back to those service members less fortunate than I was. So I turned in my Navy blue for VISTA black.”

As an outreach coordinator with Student Veterans of America, Wright connects nearly 1,000 veterans-focused student organizations across the country to grant and funding sources. This effort ultimately helps strengthen these organizations so they can serve more former service members.

“As I help out other vets, I learn more about myself,” said Wright. “It just seems like it was somehow planned out that way for me to be here and I’m very thankful for it.”

————————————————————-

Tyler came on-board with SVA in the fall of 2013, and we’re proud of what he’s accomplished as a voice for our organization and student veterans.

Read the Full Article

MAJORITY OF POST-9/11 VETS USING GI BILL COMPLETE EDUCATION

First-Time Study Shows Progress, Challenges for These Nontraditional Students
An SVA report combining data on veterans who have used Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits shows that 51.7 percent have received a postsecondary degree or certificate, a completion rate similar to traditional college students, and greater than other nontraditional students.  
"Americans have invested substantial dollars in giving our veterans an opportunity to further their education and this report shows many positive signs that they are doing just that," said Wayne Robinson, SVA president and CEO. "The majority of student veterans accessing their GI Bill benefits are completing degrees and showing unparalleled determination to do so, despite many unique barriers. A single deployment can interrupt a student veteran’s education for at least nine to 13 months, but they’re returning to the classroom and completing."


                                                       VIEW PRESS RELEASE

—————————————————————————————————————————

Join us for a Twitter town hall Wednesday, 2:15-3 PM EDT, where we answer all of your #MillionRecords questions.
MAJORITY OF POST-9/11 VETS USING GI BILL COMPLETE EDUCATION
First-Time Study Shows Progress, Challenges for These Nontraditional Students

An SVA report combining data on veterans who have used Montgomery and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits shows that 51.7 percent have received a postsecondary degree or certificate, a completion rate similar to traditional college students, and greater than other nontraditional students.  

"Americans have invested substantial dollars in giving our veterans an opportunity to further their education and this report shows many positive signs that they are doing just that," said Wayne Robinson, SVA president and CEO. "The majority of student veterans accessing their GI Bill benefits are completing degrees and showing unparalleled determination to do so, despite many unique barriers. A single deployment can interrupt a student veteran’s education for at least nine to 13 months, but they’re returning to the classroom and completing."

                                                       VIEW PRESS RELEASE

—————————————————————————————————————————

Join us for a Twitter town hall Wednesday, 2:15-3 PM EDT, where we answer all of your #MillionRecords questions.

Chapter of the Month: Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University’s Blue Raider American Veteran Organization (BRAVO) began in the heart of Tennessee in 2008. In the past several years, BRAVO has grown to become an essential part of Middle Tennessee State University’s culture. The group’s mission, “to provide an inclusive student organization for veterans…that provides networking, organizes social and service events, provides veteran specific services and advocates on behalf of student veterans,” is central to their continued and successful expansion. BRAVO works to ensure that their professional development contributes to the community and creates an atmosphere where students and alumni can build a strong, sustainable chapter.

In 2013, Bravo made tangible strides to help make their student veterans well-rounded members of the MTSU campus. To develop professionally and as part of the community, BRAVO organized both job fairs and community events. The job fair brought together local and national companies and student veterans to discuss career opportunities in numerous sectors of the civilian world.

BRAVO then developed a community action group aimed to create an emergency relief fund for their fellow veterans and peers experiencing hardship. This well-rounded, comprehensive approach to building a knowledgeable peer-to-peer support network helped strengthen the backbone of their community culture, a fact that will help the organization grow in a sustainable way for semesters to come.

This quarter, BRAVO will bring together student vets from multiple generations for their alumni dinner, further supporting the current network by connecting with student vets that have already passed through the halls of MTSU. The alumni dinner will help nurture an intergenerational peer group, so as to better inform the transition from soldier to scholar, and then to career.

BRAVO demonstrates the innate power and purpose of a student veteran network by looking to the past in building their future. The flow of knowledge from one graduating class to another will help keep this chapter strong as they set an example for their fellow chapters, their students, and SVA.


Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors Summit
On February 18th, 2014, the world took notice of the work of Student Veterans of America (SVA) during the Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors Summit held at the George W. Bush Institute. 


The Bush Institute opened with remarks from President George W. Bush and Dr. Jill Biden. During the first panel of the event, Post-9/11 Veteran and Military Families – Obstacles to Continued Service and Opportunities for Empowerment, SVA’s CEO and President, D. Wayne Robinson, discussed this generation of veterans and the ways we can all work to empower them.




“We talk about the Greatest Generation and we know that the stats exist; We can talk about the 500,000 scientists and engineers that came out of that generation, 14 Nobel Laureates, 3 Presidents, 3 Supreme Court Justices, but if you peel that back… they look just like our vets. They were guys from small town America.”




Full coverage of the “Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors” can be found here. 

Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors Summit

On February 18th, 2014, the world took notice of the work of Student Veterans of America (SVA) during the Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors Summit held at the George W. Bush Institute. 

The Bush Institute opened with remarks from President George W. Bush and Dr. Jill Biden. During the first panel of the event, Post-9/11 Veteran and Military Families – Obstacles to Continued Service and Opportunities for Empowerment, SVA’s CEO and President, D. Wayne Robinson, discussed this generation of veterans and the ways we can all work to empower them.

We talk about the Greatest Generation and we know that the stats exist; We can talk about the 500,000 scientists and engineers that came out of that generation, 14 Nobel Laureates, 3 Presidents, 3 Supreme Court Justices, but if you peel that back… they look just like our vets. They were guys from small town America.”

Full coverage of the “Empowering Our Nation’s Warriors” can be found here

Why do active duty servicemembers, spouses, and dependents receive an in-state residency waiver and veterans do not?
The answer to this question is relatively simple, and in fact has very little to do with the GI Bill.
The residency exemption for active duty servicemembers and their dependents was a result of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Originally signed into law in 1965, the Higher Education Act defines the Federal government’s role in higher education. The law is very extensive and covers issues from federal student-aid programs (Title IV) to creating parity in college sports programs (Title IX).
The law is periodically updated and reauthorized, and it was during the 2008 reauthorization that the issue of a residency exemption for active duty military personnel was introduced. Since then, the policy states that institutions cannot charge active duty servicemembers, their spouses, or dependent children out-of-state tuition if the servicemember’s home or permanent duty station is located within the state.  Veterans were not included in this language.
A common misconception is that VA education benefits, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and state’s residency policies are correlated. However, the GI Bill only defines education benefits for which veterans are eligible, and does not supersede state residency policy. But, it is worth noting that while student veterans using the MGIB are solely responsible for burdening the additional cost of out-of-state tuition, and student veterans who are 100% eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill may be able to use additional federal support through the Yellow Ribbon Program (this program is extremely complicated; I will dive into it in more detail in a later post).
So, the law that grants residency exemptions to active duty personnel does not extend to veterans as defined by the policy’s language. This means that, at least at the federal level, there would need to be changes made to the Higher Education Act to amend the residency requirement discrepancy between military veterans and active duty servicemembers. Currently, efforts to see this happen are being made in two lanes: through the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and by amending the Act through separate federal legislation. SVA stands in support of both strategies, and has publicly endorsed pending legislation, including H.R. 357, that would require schools to charge veterans in-state tuition, regardless of their residency status.
To learn more about SVA’s efforts on in-state tuition at the federal level, and to see where your state stands on #InState4Vets, visit the interactive In-State Tuition Map created in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Why do active duty servicemembers, spouses, and dependents receive an in-state residency waiver and veterans do not?

The answer to this question is relatively simple, and in fact has very little to do with the GI Bill.

The residency exemption for active duty servicemembers and their dependents was a result of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Originally signed into law in 1965, the Higher Education Act defines the Federal government’s role in higher education. The law is very extensive and covers issues from federal student-aid programs (Title IV) to creating parity in college sports programs (Title IX).

The law is periodically updated and reauthorized, and it was during the 2008 reauthorization that the issue of a residency exemption for active duty military personnel was introduced. Since then, the policy states that institutions cannot charge active duty servicemembers, their spouses, or dependent children out-of-state tuition if the servicemember’s home or permanent duty station is located within the state.  Veterans were not included in this language.

A common misconception is that VA education benefits, such as the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), and state’s residency policies are correlated. However, the GI Bill only defines education benefits for which veterans are eligible, and does not supersede state residency policy. But, it is worth noting that while student veterans using the MGIB are solely responsible for burdening the additional cost of out-of-state tuition, and student veterans who are 100% eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill may be able to use additional federal support through the Yellow Ribbon Program (this program is extremely complicated; I will dive into it in more detail in a later post).

So, the law that grants residency exemptions to active duty personnel does not extend to veterans as defined by the policy’s language. This means that, at least at the federal level, there would need to be changes made to the Higher Education Act to amend the residency requirement discrepancy between military veterans and active duty servicemembers. Currently, efforts to see this happen are being made in two lanes: through the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and by amending the Act through separate federal legislation. SVA stands in support of both strategies, and has publicly endorsed pending legislation, including H.R. 357, that would require schools to charge veterans in-state tuition, regardless of their residency status.

To learn more about SVA’s efforts on in-state tuition at the federal level, and to see where your state stands on #InState4Vets, visit the interactive In-State Tuition Map created in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Today, as the nation gathers around friends and family, we take a moment to reflect on the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as well as the heroic and eternal spirit of the namesake whose vision changed our nation. In celebration, we share this letter written by Curtis Coy, the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs (below). From everyone at SVA, have a safe and happy MLK Day. 
Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,
I typically send out this note, or one similar to it, every year.  I would ask everyone take a brief minute to read and reflect on this note.  I am often struck by the fact that many folks may not appreciate the significance of what Martin Luther King accomplished, particularly those who did not live through those times.
We remember Martin Luther King for his commitment to equal rights, non-violence, and social change.  The inspiration of Dr. King and the civil rights movement led our nation and the Federal government to a new standard of equality and inclusion, which was Dr. King’s purpose.  He wanted to challenge our country to be a better place, where every person is valued and respected. 
Dr. King challenged us to overcome oppression and violence.  He urged us to reject revenge, aggression, and retaliation.  His vision that “no individual be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” set in motion changes that led to the passage of civil rights and voting laws.  In honor and respect for his contribution to the improvement of our national attitudes, policies, and laws, the Federal government celebrates Dr. King. 
Over the years, there has been some speculation on what Dr. King could have accomplished if his life had not been so tragically cut short.  He was only 28 years old when he was elected the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Council.  He had already graduated from college at 19 and graduated from Divinity school at 22.  By the time Dr. King was 29, he had published his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” In 1964, he gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to 250,000 people who marched on Washington in support of pending civil rights legislation.  In the same year, he was successful in getting the legislation passed and he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  A lot of accomplishments for a man who was only 35 years old.
Dr. Martin Luther King believed in our country and its potential for greatness.  He also believed that each one of us is essential to achieving its full potential.  Although Dr. King’s primary efforts focused on equality for African-Americans, his ultimate goal was the equality and inclusion of every individual.  As Dr. King said  “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose.  People who have a stake in their society protect that society.  But when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”
This weekend gives us all another opportunity to reaffirm and reflect on our appreciation for the uniqueness that each individual brings to the work place.  Have a good and safe long weekend with friends and family.
V/R
Curtis L. Coy Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity Veterans Benefits Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 

Today, as the nation gathers around friends and family, we take a moment to reflect on the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as well as the heroic and eternal spirit of the namesake whose vision changed our nation. In celebration, we share this letter written by Curtis Coy, the Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity for the Department of Veterans Affairs (below). From everyone at SVA, have a safe and happy MLK Day. 

Colleagues and Fellow Veterans,

I typically send out this note, or one similar to it, every year.  I would ask everyone take a brief minute to read and reflect on this note.  I am often struck by the fact that many folks may not appreciate the significance of what Martin Luther King accomplished, particularly those who did not live through those times.

We remember Martin Luther King for his commitment to equal rights, non-violence, and social change.  The inspiration of Dr. King and the civil rights movement led our nation and the Federal government to a new standard of equality and inclusion, which was Dr. King’s purpose.  He wanted to challenge our country to be a better place, where every person is valued and respected. 

Dr. King challenged us to overcome oppression and violence.  He urged us to reject revenge, aggression, and retaliation.  His vision that “no individual be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” set in motion changes that led to the passage of civil rights and voting laws.  In honor and respect for his contribution to the improvement of our national attitudes, policies, and laws, the Federal government celebrates Dr. King. 

Over the years, there has been some speculation on what Dr. King could have accomplished if his life had not been so tragically cut short.  He was only 28 years old when he was elected the first President of the Southern Christian Leadership Council.  He had already graduated from college at 19 and graduated from Divinity school at 22.  By the time Dr. King was 29, he had published his first book, “Stride Toward Freedom.” In 1964, he gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech to 250,000 people who marched on Washington in support of pending civil rights legislation.  In the same year, he was successful in getting the legislation passed and he won the Nobel Peace Prize.  A lot of accomplishments for a man who was only 35 years old.

Dr. Martin Luther King believed in our country and its potential for greatness.  He also believed that each one of us is essential to achieving its full potential.  Although Dr. King’s primary efforts focused on equality for African-Americans, his ultimate goal was the equality and inclusion of every individual.  As Dr. King said  “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose.  People who have a stake in their society protect that society.  But when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”

This weekend gives us all another opportunity to reaffirm and reflect on our appreciation for the uniqueness that each individual brings to the work place.  Have a good and safe long weekend with friends and family.

V/R

Curtis L. Coy 
Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity 
Veterans Benefits Administration 
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 

Chapter of the Month: Florida State University

Florida State University’s Collegiate Veterans Association (CVA) continues to learn from the past while looking toward a promising future on the horizon! CVA has experienced success both on and off campus, and in their community CVA continues to build partnerships that will benefit the organization itself and their service to others for years to come. CVA’s efforts outside of the school ensured that the student veteran voice was heard in support of Florida State Senate Bill 0084. The bill passed unanimously as one more victory toward an eventual realization of in-state tuition for veterans in the State of Florida!

As the time comes for a vote on Senate Bill 0084 in the House, CVA has made their voice heard in their hometown of Tallahassee, Florida and has shown how essential in-state tuition is for the educational outcomes of each and every veteran’s journey through higher education.

On campus, the CVA was named Florida State University’s 2013 FSU Organization of the Year. This prestigious recognition provided a modest testament to the work that they do on a daily basis. This includes the great deal of legwork needed to help expand their organization and bring in the necessary talent to remain one of Student Veterans of America’s (SVA) strongest chapters!  In order to draw these motivated, bright veterans to Florida State University, CVA works to build partnerships with local community colleges in creating an accessible pipeline to the University level. This connection helps to set up transferring students for lasting success beyond the 2-year institution. These alliances coupled with the new Veterans Student Union, will make student veterans feel welcomed at the FSU campus for years to come.

In the upcoming months, this chapter’s membership aims to create a mentorship program that will translate into higher retention and graduation rates for the student veteran community. The knowledge and skills of upper class student alike will help guide those that come after as they push toward graduation, during which the student vets are given a red, white, and blue honor cord to wear during the ceremony. 

This particular chapter has “secured a seat at the table” in student veteran affairs on a national level as an integral component of the SVA network. We are excited to see what is in store for this motivated group of student veterans, who never stop looking ahead!

In Review | 6th Annual National Conference: Pioneering Social Change 

From January 2-5, 2014, student veterans, VSO leaders, government officials, and higher education stakeholders gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona for SVA’s 6th Annual National Conference. Attendees came for many reasons, the most important being to connect with their brothers and sisters from across the nation.   

We hit the ground running with two panels discussing both the current policies and research informing the relationship of student veterans to the nation’s higher education system. After these informative sessions, the first day came to a close with a Welcome Reception; Jim Nier, the former Commander-in-Chief of The Veterans of Foreign Wars, addressed the crowd with words that spoke of the camaraderie veterans share and the fundamental role it plays in building a vibrant national student veteran community.

The next day began with the General Session. General Casey delivered a rousing speech that got the attendees out of their seats, during which he stressed the opportunities afforded them by the events of the coming days. For the veterans that filled the room and classrooms around the country, “education is more than just a piece of parchment, it is about educating the next leaders of America.” 

Later that day, SVA’s own led breakout sessions that encouraged discussions on initiating and sustaining change in their communities effectively, collaboratively, and with ingenuity. The Innovative Solutions session highlighted unique and inventive chapter programs designed by student veteran organizations to tackle the challenges they face on campus. 

Concurrently, the Sustainable Change and Collaborative Communities sessions focused on tools, resources, and best practices to support chapters growth and place in a communal network, in a sustainable manner. 

Friday evening’s Professional Networking Reception brought together career-minded student veterans and SVA’s generous partner and sponsored organizations. Representatives were ready with easy conversation and informational material to advise the professional decisions of our servicemembers-turned-scholars. A good evening spent in great company!

The Entrepreneurship and Alumni panels took place the final day. Both brought together former student veterans and veteran entrepreneurs to discuss their transition from degree to career. The importance of networking was highlighted by Derek Blumke, Executive VP of Business Development at HirePurpose: “People will invest in you if they trust you…and one can only go so far alone.” The panels concluded with a single line from Jared Lyon, an SVA alumni and representative of the Institute for Veterans & Military Families, “there is nothing you can’t do, you already have everything you need.”

The Banquet and Awards Ceremony proved a fitting end to a remarkable and memorable event. Kiersten Downs, Air Force veteran and graduate student at the University of South Florida, was named SVA’s Student Veteran of the Year for exemplary leadership. Ms. Downs completed a cross-country bicycle tour in 2013 to raise awareness of the student veteran experience, and funds for SVA. The University of Colorado-Denver was announced as champions of the Second Annual Business Plan Competition with their business strategy and programming praised by our panel of judges.

Maj. Gen. Lehnert took the stage as the final speaker of the conference. He had a simple message -  “Graduate!” His remarks closed this year’s event and ensured that student veterans left motivated to positively transform their campus!

Thank you to everyone for making this year’s conference the best yet! We look forward to seeing you all throughout 2014, and in 2015 for the 7th Annual National Conference.