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CSU’s veteran program rising through the ranks, now No. 2 in nation

Home to a plethora of resources and opportunities for veterans, Colorado State University’s student-veteran program was bumped up from a sixth place standing last year to the second-best program in the United States for four-year universities. 

According to Military Times, university culture, student support, academic policies, academic outcomes/quality, cost and financial aid were the primary categories evaluated for this ranking. 

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“(Military Times has) a lot of the metrics that they expect schools to track on the veteran success measures,” said Josh Johnson, senior psychology major, student-veteran and peer adviser in the Adult Learner and Veteran Services office at CSU.

In the approximately 150-question survey that thousands of colleges and universities were asked to complete, another major criterion was whether or not the school had a center for veterans.

The ALVS office acts as a place where student-veterans and adult learners can come together and create a “new form of community,” Johnson said.

“The single most important thing that we do here and the biggest resource we provide is a community for our student-veterans — a community that gets them engaged on campus,” said Marc Barker, the director of ALVS.

Transitioning could be a very anxiety-ridden process of … trying to figure out what you’re going to do, where you’re going to live and all these things, but you’re also trying to figure out how you’re going to go back into school.” -Ryan Kropp, student-veteran and peer adviser, ALVS

Johnson said there are many other resources that set CSU apart from other schools, such as the Student Veteran Organization, SALUTE Veterans National Honor Society and Elevate.

The SVO hosts events with the focus of community building and aiding in a veteran’s transition into university life.

SALUTE, the first national honors society for student-veterans established at CSU, has its national headquarters in the ALVS, and Elevate, a summer program for veterans transitioning into school, offers introductory courses in mathematics and English composition to help student-veterans transition back into the education system.

“These veterans, while they’re active duty, spend years without going to school,” said Ryan Kropp, sophomore social work major, student-veteran and peer adviser in the ALVS. “I, for instance, was not in school for the six years that I was in the military, and transitioning could be a very anxiety-ridden process of … trying to figure out what you’re going to do, where you’re going to live and all these things, but you’re also trying to figure out how you’re going to go back into school.”

The University also offers traditional programming, such as tutoring, career services and peer advising.

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“You don’t become the second-best program in the country by just meeting somebody’s needs,” Barker said. “So we want to elevate beyond just meeting your needs. But then we don’t want to stop there because once we get you elevated into this community and into the campus life, then we want you to thrive.”

It is a great reflection of how well the University supports our veteran program. But really it’s a testament to the students that are here.” -Marc Barker, ALVS director

This second place honor can be credited to the school’s administration, the ALVS staff, ALVS partners, donors and the students, Barker said.

Millions of dollars over the last decade have poured in from private donors, and one donor alone supplies a $3,000 semesterly scholarship for combat veterans, Barker said.

Last spring, traditional-aged students agreed to a tax that contributes to the new ALVS center set to open in the spring of 2021.

The ALVS center will increase from its approximately 1,800 square feet to 8,000 square feet due to the move, which will result in the ability for the office to have capacity for hundreds more people than before.

“(The second place rating) means to me that other people see that the student-veterans here at CSU (are) really part of the next greatest generation of veterans,” Barker said. “It is a great reflection of how well the University supports our veteran program. But, really, it’s a testament to the students that are here.”

Joey Wagner can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @joeyleewagner.

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