The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was named among the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News and World Report. Selection was based on participation in federal initiatives designed to help veterans and active service members apply, fund, and complete their degrees. UTC offers veterans a streamlined process for admission and the support of a student veterans’ organization, just a few examples of the University’s commitment to those who serve.

SVO-5Krace2012_080 insideOne veteran’s story
Barry Bookheimer, a former nuclear reactor operator for the U.S. Navy, decided to go back to school after a decade of military service.

“Without a college degree, I would most likely have to get a job working nights. I knew I didn’t want that schedule. I got out of the military to start a family, and I want a job with hours more suitable for that life,” he said.

Bookheimer, a double major in nuclear engineering and history, admits he was initially nervous to return to school.

“I didn’t know where I fit in. Military life is all I’ve known for years. When you’re deployed for so long, it can be hard to relate to other college students. You might not know what music is playing on the radio or what movies are in the theatres,” he said.

Bookheimer found his place as a member of the UTC Student Veterans Organization. The mission of the student group is to help bridge the gap between military service and academia by advocating for a veteran friendly campus.

“The people you meet and work with in the military often become your lifelong friends, so it’s challenging to lose that sense of friendship when you go back to ‘the real world.’ The student group helped me transition to civilian life. The group is a big reason why UTC is a great school for veterans and their families. Since I’ve been here, awareness and assistance on campus has increased ten-fold,” he said.

A smooth transition
The UTC Records Office has a dedicated staff member to help veterans and their families with the adjustment process. Squoia Holmes, UTC Coordinator of Veteran and Military Student Services, helps veterans and their families through the process of registering for classes.

“Our office wanted to assist with making a smooth transition for veterans leaving the military and coming to a civilian atmosphere. We assist with helping them focus primarily on their education and ensuring that their enrollment certification is efficiently processed,” Holmes said.

Give it a chance
Someone who can relate to Bookheimer’s experience is Major Rob Ricks III, UTC Assistant Professor of Military Science. Ricks joined the University in 2012 to help lead the ROTC program after serving in the Army for more than twenty years.

“Veterans are more goal-oriented than the traditional student. They have a better idea of what they want to do and what they want to get out of higher education,” he said. “But it can be a difficult transition to come from an environment where you lived and worked with the same people every day. You won’t get that level of camaraderie anywhere else, and that can be a tough adjustment.”

“It’s easy to get frustrated when trying to adjust, but I advise students to stick with it, and understand it takes time,” he continued. “It’s also easy to romanticize your time in the military, but make sure to give civilian culture a chance.”

To learn more about the UTC Student Veterans Organization, visit their website here.

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3 Comments » for UTC named one of the “Best Colleges for Veterans”
  1. While I agree UTC is doing a wonderful job supporting current and future student veterans, could it do more?

    Why don’t we have a veterans button on the homepage that links to our VA certifier’s page. Her name is Squoia Holmes and she works in the Records Department. That way vets could contact her before filling out an enrollment application and know all the necessary steps to getting the VA to pay for their school plus understand the current services UTC does provide. It would also give them a link to the Student Veterans Organization so they could connect with their peers.

    UTC should also have break out sessions for veterans during orientation or veteran specific orientations that address issues that concern them the most. UTC could also partner with local businesses to host veteran specific job fairs and have a veterans center that acts as a one stop shop for all their school needs and services.

    I understand that there is always an issue for giving preference to a group but UTC does it all the time. For instance the athletic gym near Davenport Hall or the wrestlers only weight room. How about the Women’s Center? Did you know that veterans exist in every minority/majority group imagined? Plus, if money is an issue, veterans actually add dollars to the school with guaranteed money from the US Government. Athletes on scholarship take money.

    Veterans have, on average, higher GPA’s, graduation and retention rates, and tend to lead their classes in participation then the average college student. They are community leaders and assets that UTC cannot afford to lose to other schools in Tennessee that are going above UTCs’ efforts. I believe this school has a great opportunity to be the standard when it comes to offering student veterans a welcoming community loaded with services. All it takes is someone important to agree.

    Thank you

  2. Jordan, thank you for your insights and suggestions.

    I have added prominent buttons to the Apply page, the Admissions page, and the Veteran Affairs page. Also, I’ve created a shortcut to Veteran Affairs (utc.edu/veterans)

  3. Jordan Betbeze says:

    Chris,

    Thank you so much for your quick response and actions taken. I will share this news with the SVO! You are awesome! If you ever need anything from us, let us know.

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