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Student Veterans Say Space On Campus, Recognition Of Experiences Eases Transition Back To School

A screen shot of a video call shows clockwise from top left: Joe Schumacher, MSU's Director of Veteran Services, Army veteran and MSU graduate Saul Martinez, Navy veteran and current MSU student Rachel Nyquist.
The MSU Alumni Foundation hosted an online seminar about student veterans and available services at the campus in Bozeman on Nov. 10, 2020. From top left: Joe Schumacher, MSU's Director of Veteran Services, Army veteran and MSU graduate Saul Martinez, Navy veteran and current MSU student Rachel Nyquist.

Going to college is a big change for all students. But for those who have recently left military service, student veterans say more support on campus can ease the double transition of also adjusting to civilian life.

Rachel Nyquist is one of more than 500 student veterans enrolled at Montana State University this semester. The Navy veteran on an online seminar on Oct. 10 said as a nontraditional student, MSU’s Veteran Support Center, the place where students can take care of their GI paperwork, grab a cup of coffee and connect with people who have similar life experiences, was a big draw.

“Like you can go to these classes with these younger kids and maybe feel a little out of place and then between classes you can come to the veterans center and you can sit down and do your homework there or just talk to someone who understands your language,” Nyquist said.

Saul Martinez, an army veteran and MSU graduate, said as a bilateral amputee, disability services made it possible for him to get to class safely.

“Disability services was very, very good about reaching out to me before the winter came and asking me, ‘Ok, what are your routes to classes? What classes are you taking.’ And I have to give a big shout out to the maintenance crew because never did I have to worry about my route to class because it was always clear,” Martinez said.

Daryl Lee with University of Montana’s Veterans Office told YPR he and his peer serve as the liaisons between nearly 500 student veterans, UM and Veterans Affairs. The office also helps student veterans figure out how to reach their educational goals and connect them with resources on campus and in the community.

UM also has a dedicated building on campus for student veterans and space at Missoula College.

Lee says student veterans often have a lot more life experience than their peers and encourages professors to engage with veterans in a way to enrich classroom learning. He gave the example of an ethics class.

“Instead of teaching them these are the fundamentals, here’s some examples. How about you ask them based on their examples and use that information, that knowledge that they already have to teach each other based on each others’ experiences," Lee said.

The Montana University System recognizes Veterans Day this Nov. 11.