University makes big leap in 'Best for Vets' rankings
When Jake Post started classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he struggled with the transition from military to college life.
"My first semester at Nebraska was pretty rough," Post said. "I hadn't been in school since high school and jumping into college-level classrooms was difficult. My strategies just weren't working."
To get on track, Post turned to resources within the university's Military and Veteran Success Center.
Directed by Darrell Everhart, a retired, 25-year U.S. Navy veteran, the center offers a range of student veteran support services -- from quiet study spaces and computer access to one-on-one counseling and assistance with military benefits -- that ease the transition to college life and build toward academic success. The office is also staffed by Deb Quinn, the veterans affairs coordinator for the university.
One year after launching the student veteran support center, two publications have ranked Nebraska among the nation's top institutions for veteran success.
In the "Best for Vets: Colleges 2017" rankings by Military Times, the university surged upward 78 spots, from No. 102 in the 2016 survey to No. 24 this year. Also, Military Advanced Education and Transition's 2017 guide to colleges and universities designated Nebraska a "Top School" for following best practices in military and veteran education.
"These rankings show that Nebraska is providing services that can make a difference for our student veterans and their family members," Everhart said. "This is a university that cares for and supports service members and helps them achieve their education goals."
The annual "Best for Vets" survey is compiled by Military Times, an independent military news outlet. Institutions of higher education across the United States participate by completing a rigorous survey of nearly 150 questions about campus services that support current and former military members and their families.
The surveys are combined with information provided by veterans, data from federal veterans affairs and defense departments, and education department details to formulate the annual Military Times rankings. For more information on the rankings, click here.
The "Top School" rating was awarded by Military Advanced Education and Transition, a journal dedicated to providing information on higher education to military service members. For more information, click here.
"I know from my own experience in the military that these are consistently two of the best publications for getting information directly into the hands of veterans," Everhart said. "We're pretty excited to be included prominently in them."
The rankings were no surprise to Post, who, after meeting with Everhart and making use of the student veteran success center, has developed new classroom strategies and is succeeding in his second semester.
"It's great knowing the university has this resource dedicated to helping student veterans," Post said. "I go there almost every day now to study in one of the cubicles or chair in the back area. I know it's made my life on campus much easier."
Key first-year Military and Veteran Success Center initiatives that helped the university achieve its recent ranking improvements include:
Establishing campus partnerships with ROTC programs, the Student Veterans Organization, admissions representatives, student advisers, and faculty;
Making space available to allow weekly "office hours" with a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs representative;
Reaching out to National Guard units in Lincoln;
Offering career presentations led by local, state and national employers; and
Working with students in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications to develop a communications and marketing plan to help educate campus about programs and services.
In the upcoming year, Everhart said he plans to further develop the center's veteran peer mentor program, expand links to health services programming and provide more information on scholarship availability.
"Rankings are rankings," Everhart said. "You can report that you have services that support student veteran education, but the bottom line is you need to back it up. You need to connect directly with student veterans and their family members, offering things they are interested in and will help them succeed on campus.
"That's what we're doing here at Nebraska."