Classroom Veterans - Privileged to Serve

Posted by Paula Paine on May 25, 2011 in Alumni, Arizona, Online, "School of Business" Soldiers and Students “At Camp Cook in Iraq, we were bombed three times a day. They do have a couple of bomb shelters, but I didn’t always use them. There were times where I slept through the bombing. By the time you could get dressed and get your gear back on, it was over, so I just didn’t even try to get to the shelters. You either got hit or you didn’t.” Monica Carrillo’s job during her five years in the U.S. Army changed from vehicle mechanic while in South Korea and at Ft. Hood, Texas, to radio monitor while serving for a year in Iraq. When she left the military, she pursued a lifelong dream—her college education. She chose OU-Arizona because, while she prefers traditional classroom education, OU™ also offered online courses. Combining the two was the perfect way for her to maneuver college, work and life as a single mom. [slideshow id=7] “I have a picture from October 2, 1992 - the day I graduated boot camp. I am in my dress-blue uniform standing between my father and my grandfather. My grandfather died of Parkinson’s disease a few years later. It’s my favorite picture. I have two sons in high school now and both want to be Marines and serve their country like their dad. Nothing would make me prouder than going to their graduation.” Brandon Coleman counts his 2009 Ottawa University graduation among his proudest moments, as well. After putting his bachelor’s degree in English and human services to work through his position at the Veterans Administration, Coleman decided to return to OU to complete his master’s degree. He graduated from “I was a cashier at Wal-Mart in Joplin, Missouri. I did not feel like my life meant anything and I needed to do more. As this thought came to me, a Navy recruiter came through my line. He asked if I was thinking of the military and I told him, ‘Actually, yes.’ I joined in November 2006.” Jeremy Case is currently serving as a Master at Arms in the U.S. Navy in Kuwait. He’s also an OU student studying business management through the school’s online program and a married father of one. His grandfather, Bert Kleidon, is treasurer for the Ottawa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. He told his grandson about OU’s relationship with the tribe and the financial benefits for Ottawa Indian students. Federal Funding Drives Veteran Enrollment In 2008, The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill, was restructured. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, “the new law gives veterans with active duty service on, or after, September 11, 2001, enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses, provide a living allowance, money for books, and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children.” In 2011, federal funding for veteran education will hit an all-time high of $9.5 billion. According to government data, many veterans are choosing for-profit institutions. Eight of the top ten colleges used by VA-funded students are for-profits. However, Ottawa University offers the flexibility famously credited to for-profits, as well as the quality of education and personal relationships long-credited to our own private, nonprofit liberal arts institution. Soldiers (and their spouses) are finding their way to OU™ because the school is competitive with the larger, more publicized for-profit institutions such as American Military University and University of Phoenix. Ottawa University participates in the VA’s Yellow Ribbon Program, which allows private colleges to compete with for-profits and state schools for students. “The Yellow Ribbon Program is a provision of the Post-9/11 GI Bill that allows degree-granting institutions to voluntarily enter into a formal agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee expenses that exceed either the annual $17,500 private institutions cap recently instituted by Congress or the in-state tuition and fees charged out-of-state residents attending public institutions.” (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website) Flexibility is also a key factor when veterans choose a college. They balance work and family in order to pursue a degree. “Upon completion of all my requirements at the community college level,” says Coleman, “I was going to transfer to Arizona State University. In order to maintain my full-time student status at ASU, I would have gone to school five nights a week while maintaining full-time employment and also making time to be a father. At Ottawa, I was able to maintain my full-time status while only taking two classes at a time and attending class two nights a week.” Just as important in attracting veteran students is their need for guidance and helpful staff and faculty. “I think OU’s veterans department is the best I have ever experienced,” says Carrillo. “Their level of service was always excellent. And the flexibility in the classes they offer makes it super convenient to attend and finish school in a timely fashion.” Multiple veterans add to the make-up of OU’s faculty and staff, as well. “Veterans are so engaged” says Andrea Cook, student advisor for OU’s online program. “They’ve made a conscious decision to come back for their degree. They work very hard to get their degrees. It doesn’t happen all the time, but for the most part, our non-traditional, veteran students put a bit more into their degree.” Moving Forward Like all Ottawa University students, vets have varying goals and career paths ahead of them. Coleman hopes to use his newly-acquired master’s degree to counsel others who, like himself, have struggled with addiction. Carrillo received her MBA in May from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. Case continues serving in Kuwait while finishing his degree. He regrets time away from his wife and child but is using his salary to save to buy or build their dream house some day. He feels good about serving his country and sees long-term benefits in his military involvement. Ottawa University continues to grow and change to meet the needs of all its students—including those who have served or are serving our country. With constantly-evolving education methods and a faculty and staff who truly care and want to better their students, OU will remain competitive, regardless of coming changes or challenges in the structure of education. “I love working with the veteran students” says Cook. “You can see how hard they work all the time. They deal with so much and I have a lot of respect for what they do in addition to schoolwork. Helping them with their college path is my small way to give back to them for what they give to all Americans.”