Veterans fit in very well at Metropolitan State.
Two-thirds of Metro State students study part-time, hold jobs and support families, as do veterans. Thirty-eight percent of our students come from communities of color, as do veterans. Among our overall student population, the average age is 31 years old; among our newest students, the average age is 28—like many veterans. Ninety-seven percent of our students are transfer students, as are many veterans.
October is Veterans Voices Month in Minnesota and to start it off Metropolitan State University hosted the fall 2015 Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company Conference. The semi-annual conference is an opportunity for representatives of Yellow Ribbon companies to network and share knowledge on how to better serve their employees who are veterans.
The fall conference is Metropolitan State’s first hosting of the network and brought 64 attendees who represented nearly 50 companies and organizations to the university’s Saint Paul Campus. Speakers included Devinder Malhotra, Metropolitan State president, Major General Richard C. Nash, Minnesota National Guard, Gina Sobania, MnSCU Military, Veteran and Adult Learner Services director and Denise Williams, Metro State professor.
“It was a very successful sharing of best practices and gaining a new network of contacts to help the program—it’s all about sharing. Having the Metropolitan State President and General Nash there was key to raising the profile and sustaining the Yellow Ribbon program,” said Steve Campos, an Air Force veteran and Metro student. Campos, sometimes described as “volunteer extraordinaire,” helped organize to bring the conference to Metropolitan State.
The Minnesota National Guard pioneered the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program in 2006 to provide reintegration services and a community for service members returning from deployment. The program’s name serves as a reminder that the support of soldiers cannot end when they return from deployment. It has grown into a community supporting service members and their families before, during and after deployment.
“With so many of Metro State’s leadership there—as well as from the business community—it showed an outpouring of support, not only to help, but honor veteran employees,” Campos said.
More than 800 students, as well as about 40 employees, at Metropolitan State are veterans. In his statement to the attendees that day, Interim President Devinder Malhotra said, “Metropolitan State places a high priority on providing a full range of services and support—in addition to high-demand bachelor’s and master’s degree programs—to our students who are veterans, active military, and members of military families.”
Bruce Holzschuh, who coordinates the university’s Veterans and Military Student Center and is himself a veteran of the U.S. Navy Seabees, had been working with Metropolitan State University’s veteran support programs since 2007. The university went through the formal process to attain Yellow Ribbon status in 2013 with a plan committed to support student service members through educational resources, off-campus connections, mentoring programs and transition services. The veterans services standard of support is recognized nationally, and Metropolitan State is highly ranked on the military-friendly lists in national veterans and military publications.
“Our mission is veteran students. The university environment is a little bit different for veterans to transition to. Life in the military and life in the civilian world is very different, especially in the university world. This support is very helpful in softening that landing,” Holzschuh said. “Our veterans’ experiences come from different points of their service and career. Their needs can be very different and we really have to customize the approach.”
Student veterans come to Metro State in various stages of life — a 20-something year-old just released from service, or someone in their 40s who already has had a 20-year career with leadership, organizational and team-building experience.
“His needs are going to be very different from that young guy,” Holzschuh said. “We’re here to help that transition.”
The Metro State Veterans Network hosts and participates in events focused on building community, educating students and honoring veterans. They include professional development programs for active military personnel, award ceremonies honoring Minnesotans who have served our country and performances relevant to military and veteran services.
Metropolitan State University’s Veterans and Military Student Services provides a comprehensive support system to veterans seeking entrance into the university and during their academic journey. The team also paves a successful transition into the higher education learning environment.