Man on a mission

FrankWills.jpg

Veterans Resource Center eases transition from military life to academia Even though he left the…

Georgia (Jul 13, 2012)

Veterans Resource Center eases transition from military life to academia

Even though he left the Marine Corps several years ago, Frank Wills remains a man on a mission. As director of Kennesaw State’s Veterans Resource Center, a unit within Student Success Services, he provides resources for military veterans who wish to start or continue their college education.

The center counsels veterans on applying for veterans’ educational benefits and assists with enrollment. It also supports active and reserve military members, their spouses and dependents. The center maintains information for campus veteran related resources, links to local military support services and contacts for local Veterans Affairs facilities.

“From probably a handful a decade ago, we now have 700 to 800 veterans enrolled at KSU,” said the 32-year-old Wills. “We’re like family here.”

According to Jerome Ratchford, KSU’s vice president for student success, the growth has been nothing short of phenomenal.

“Kennesaw State has experienced more than an 80 percent increase in the number of veterans enrolled between 2009 and 2011,” Ratchford said. “We are pleased with what we have been able to accomplish thus far, but we have set our sights on re-doubling our efforts to get the word out that Kennesaw State welcomes all veterans.”

Although it’s only been in operation for two years, the center achieved an important distinction this past fall when it earned the prestigious “Military Friendly School” ranking from G.I. Jobs magazine. This recognition honors the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace America’s military service members and veterans as students.

“This designation recognizes the hard work and dedication of faculty, staff and countless volunteers committed to helping our nation’s veterans continue their education,” said Kennesaw State President Daniel S. Papp.

In selecting Kennesaw State, the magazine noted the key role KSU’s center has played helping veterans. In compiling its “2012 Military Friendly Schools” list, the publication noted KSU made the cut because of the center’s commitment to prioritize the recruitment of students with military experience.

“This magazine is important to us because it’s what vets read when they’re thinking of transitioning back into civilian life and going to college,” said Wills. The survey, which compiled data regarding student veterans’ experience at various educational institutions, covered more than 8,000 schools nationwide.

Wills, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran, advises veterans enrolled at the university and collaborates with other campus entities, including the offices of the registrar and financial aid. He also helps veterans as they acclimate to the pressures of civilian life and the campus environment, assisting them with obtaining their educational benefits and acting as liaison between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the university. Wills works closely with veterans student groups on campus and with the national veterans community.

“More veterans are returning to school than at any time since the end of the Vietnam War,” said Wills. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of vets in school right now because they didn’t have the financial assistance before to allow them to pay for college. The Post-911GI Bill was a big help,” he added.

“One of the things that makes Kennesaw State’s operation unique is the one-stop shop concept,” said Tonya R. Lam, University System of Georgia assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs. “Frank Wills has done an excellent job organizing his center and he has created an amazing awareness of the center around Georgia. He truly understands vets and their needs because he has been there himself.”

The success of the center has put it on the military’s radar screen. Top Joint Chiefs of Staff officers from the Office of Warrior and Family Support visited the center last August and liked what they found.

In November, Wills’ mostly volunteer staff participated in The Remembrance Day National Roll Call. Kennesaw State joined with colleges across the nation on Veterans Day, to read the names of the 6,300 casualties of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, now called Operation New Dawn.

Student-veteran John Breckenridge, one of the organizers of the event, is a senior majoring in political science.

“Most military people are looking for a growing, challenging academic environment,” he said. “We’ve got that here at Kennesaw State.”

 

-- Robert Godlewski


 

A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu

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