Michigan Veteran Education Initiative

Mission Complete

The Michigan Veterans Education Initiative (MVEI) program officially ended in May 2017. This innovative initiative established veteran’s service outreach activities at colleges and universities throughout the state of Michigan.  To deliver these services, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA), in partnership with the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), selected and positioned full-time, highly qualified veteran resource representatives (VRRs) on the campuses of each participating institution. Leading the MVEI effort throughout, the VRRs significantly expanded veteran counseling and service delivery capacity.  Although the VRRs focused their efforts on connecting veteran students with education benefits, they also developed new programs, sponsored outreach events, trained faculty and staff and solved many problems on behalf of the veterans in their communities.

Seventeen institutions participated in the MVEI at some point during the program, including Northern
Michigan University; North Central Michigan College; Mid-Michigan Community College; Ferris State University; Grand Rapids Community College; Grand Valley State University; Michigan State University, Lansing Community College; Baker College-Flint; Oakland University; Oakland Community College; Eastern Michigan University; Western Michigan University; Jackson Community College; MIAT College of Technology; Spring Arbor University; and Kirtland Community College. 

During the program, the VRRs connected over 4,000 veteran students with their education benefits. They sponsored or supported over 400 campus events and developed several new and innovative programs and service delivery enhancements at their respective schools. The VRRs also served as ambassadors for their institutions, representing their schools at local veteran’s events and by responding to any type of resource or benefit inquiry from local veterans, their families or students. As the program completion date neared, nine participating institutions made official decisions to maintain their VRR in some capacity by creating full-time positions for their veteran’s services provider.

Many of the VRR initiatives have had an enormous impact on the IHLs and are now entrenched as a standard practice. At one school, the VRR introduced a “Textbook Loan Program.” This program encouraged all students on campus to donate their used books to the veterans support office for future use by a veteran student. The veteran service office on campus collected over 350 donated books and obtained a $20,000 donation from an anonymous source as well as six laptop computers from Blue Cross Blue Shield. This endeavor also made it possible for the veteran support office to offer free printing services to veteran students. Most of the VRRs were successful in convincing university leadership to create or expand dedicated veteran’s resource centers. New student orientations now include VRR presentations. The VRRs expanded the VA Work-Study programs at almost every IHL while invigorating their Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapters.

A veteran resource representative assists
two student veterans at Ferris State University.

 

The VRRs assemble in Lansing for monthly training:

Standing, from left to right: Randall Locke, JCC;
Morgan Barone, GVSU/GRCC; Mike Rutledge, NMU;
Jacob Schrott, FSU; Mike Welch, LCC;
Sarah Mellon, MSU; Jeff Schuett, OU;
Melissa Colby, NCMC; Chris Stanton, MMCC;
Jeremi Redmond, MIAT; Mark Baker, EMU; and
Eric Wuestenberg, Baker-Flint.
Kneeling: Mike Lee, Program Director 
Laying: Welles the Bow Wow

The VRRs were also proactive problem-solvers and crisis managers. Often times, the VRR was the most available or the only effectual problem managers available to local veterans and veteran students. Their ability to solve problems quickly, thoroughly and under any circumstance demonstrated the effectiveness and reach of the program. Support to veterans in crisis represented one of the most consequential and compassionate service elements of the MVEI. Two VRRs explain how they assisted student veterans, in their own words, below:

“Army veteran stopped in with the weight of the world on his shoulder. He needed legal resources to help with a custody/civil suit going on with his family, realized he purchased the wrong textbook from the bookstore and was trying to balance a full-time school schedule and working to save money to support his growing family. I sat him down and addressed each issue at hand. I was able to reach out to my fellow VRRs and collect possible legal resources he might have access to due to his veteran status. I also contacted the County VA Director and discovered there might be assistance available through a county office emergency fund.  I also called the campus bookstore manager and explained what had happened regarding book purchase explaining that the veteran had no money to purchase an entire new book. She did an override on the system and allowed him to exchange for the correct edition. The student thanked me profusely and looked much less devastated walking out compared to when he walked in”.

“A Navy veteran (recently discharged) came in to sign up for courses at the college. She hadn't applied for the GI Bill or filled out the financial aid application yet because she was too confused and overwhelmed by the process. She also mentioned that she did not file taxes for two prior years because she shuts down when it comes to gathering the necessary documents from military.  I told her to come in so we could get everything in motion. She did and by the end of our appointment we had ordered copy of DD214 from 1-800MICHVET, submitted application for GI Bill benefits, ordered military transcripts, and found a contact to assist her with filing her taxes and FAFSA.  I also gave her the application for the Emergency Fund on campus which ended up paying the fee associated with filing taxes for the two missing years so she can apply for federal financial aid. She was very thankful to have these tasks taken care of so she could focus on her coursework”.

The Michigan Veteran Education Initiative would like to thank our college and university partners, the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency, the Michigan College Access Network, and above all, the Veteran Resource Representatives who dedicated their time and talent to this program.   

 

Institutional Partnerships  

The list of participating campuses included: 

BAKER LOGO round

  Eastern Michigan University

  Ferris Box Flame Stacked Wordmark web 2012

 markleft 301 rGVSU

GRCC Logo New-294
 JC Logo Final - Color

 kirtland logoKirtland Community College

 

LCC-logo-color MIAT College for WEB  MSU

MMCC Logo Blue-White

Mid Michigan Community College

NCMC nmu logo 380  Oakland Community College SAU Logo Black JPEG
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