On the second floor of the Washtenaw Community College Student Center, there’s an office where the students who come and go stand a little straighter and seem a little taller.
It’s the office space set aside for veterans attending WCC. A place where they can meet fellow veterans, receive advising or just hang out.
In August, the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) certified WCC as being a veteranfriendly school at the Gold level, which is the highest status that can be achieved.
“We’re thrilled,” said Sukanya Jett, WCC’s director of admissions. “We try very hard to make sure that our students are able to get all the assistance they need, so that they can be successful here at WCC and also in the future. Our staff in the Veterans Center are very committed to helping our veterans, so we’re very happy to have received this recognition.”
What does it take to become certified by the MVAA as a veteran-friendly school? Here’s the criteria:
- On-campus veteran’s coordinator and/or staffed veterans center
- Active student-operated veteran club/association
- Established process for the identification of current student veterans
- Evaluation and awarding of credit for military training and experience
- Veteran-specific website/ portal
- Monitoring and evaluation of student veteran academic retention, completion and graduation rates
- Monitoring and evaluation of student veteran job placement rates
To receive Gold status, WCC had to meet at least six of the seven criteria listed above, according to MVAA’s website. It’s also worth pointing out that WCC has been designated as a military-friendly school by GI Jobs magazine since 2012.
According to WCC’s enrollment services, there were 663 students enrolled who were either veterans, active military or in the reserves during the 2014-15 academic year. Of these students, 319 utilized GI Bill education benefits.
“We’re helping veterans transition from the military to college and eventually into the workplace and that’s a huge transition for them,” Jett said. “This certification is something that will help veterans when they are deciding what school would best fit their needs. We want to give them the tools they need so they can be successful.”
The Veterans Center provides several services, including academic advising, assistance with applying for benefits, certification of enrollment for benefits, and computers for school use. It’s also a place where veterans can go to connect with other veterans. Much has been written about how it’s not easy to transition from military life to civilian life and essentially, the center exists to help make that transition smoother.
WCC student and veteran Stephen Smith can certainly attest to that. After serving in the military as a fabricator for six-anda- half years, Smith returned to the classroom to pursue a career in welding. He enrolled in the Veterans Center a couple months ago, but already has glowing feedback for the staff.
“It’s well worth it. Everything you need is right there at the Veterans Center,” he said. “They answer any questions you may have right then and there. They helped me decide what program would be best for me. I wish I had gone there sooner. The staff there are some of the best sources of information that I’ve had in a long time.”
For the staff at the Veterans Center, serving veterans is more than just a job. It’s a passion. “We have a very conducive environment here in the Veterans Center that allows them to be themselves and helps them with that transition,” said Mary Singer, veterans student technician at WCC. “Every person in this center takes it very seriously.”
WCC’s veterans student advisor Jan Militello added, “This certification means that we’re doing a good job at servicing students that are looking to us for assistance.”
For more information about the Veterans Center at WCC, visit vetcenter.wccnet.edu.