KALAMAZOO,Mich. — According to a press release Western Michigan University is the only school in Michigan singled out by the Obama Administration as one of the nation’s colleges and universities that are “leading the way” to foster postsecondary educational opportunities and dramatically improve employment outcomes for returning service members.
An announcement Aug. 12 by the U.S. departments of Education and Veterans affairs identified schools across the nation that have adopted a set of strategies called 8 Keys to Success that are viewed as best practices for serving veterans. The announcement by the two departments included a list of 250 schools in 25 states that already have adopted the recommended strategies. While some states boast dozens of such schools, only WMU was singled out in Michigan as an institution that is embracing those strategies designed to lead to success for student veterans.
The keys to success were first outlined by President Barack Obama during an Aug. 10 speech at the Disabled American Veterans National Convention. In their announcement, the two agencies reiterated the president’s praise for colleges already on board as well as his challenge to other colleges and universities to become part of a nationwide network that will provide better coordination with government agencies, a uniform set of data tools and an early alert system aimed at student veterans.
The 8 Keys to Success include the following:
1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for veterans.
2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all veterans receive academic, career and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for veterans.
6. Utilize a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on veterans, including demographics and retention and degree-completion statistics.
7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to veterans.
8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for veterans.
WMU and two partner institutions, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Kellogg Community College, have served as a VetSuccess on Campus site since April 2012, when Congressman Fred Upton announced a decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs to locate a VetSuccess on Campus program in southwest Michigan–the agency’s first such program in Michigan.