MU Veterans Center Tries to Improve Graduation Rates

9 years 6 days 5 hours ago Thursday, November 11 2010 Nov 11, 2010 Thursday, November 11, 2010 10:13:29 PM CST November 11, 2010 in News
COLUMBIA- The MU Veterans center is focused on helping veterans graduate on time.  The center is one of only four freestanding organizations funded by public institutions to focus solely on serving those who have served. The center helps more than 350 veterans.

Carol Fleisher is the director of the center.  She said there are specific challenges to vets who try to adjust to the college life.

"They're used to structure, and they have different life experiences than your typical student."

John Mills was a sergeant in the marines before choosing to attend MU.  "In the military I had to get up at 6 a.m. every day to be at work at seven.  Here there's no one who's going to kick my butt if I don't go to class."

Adjusting to the academic setting is not the only stress that affects veterans trying to get a college degree. Post traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries are major obstacles for some veterans. 

Fleisher said she is "lucky" to have the Truman memorial Veterans Hospital so close to help veterans afflicted with the anxieties and stresses associated with long stints in a war zone. 

The center is dedicated to retaining its veterans.  Across the country, veterans have lower 5-year graduation rates than the general student population.  The biggest factor in this phenomenon is the lack of a good support structure.

"Sometimes people are moving across the country to a place they've never been." Mills said.  He was born in Louisiana to missionary parents but spent most of his adolescence in Kenya.  He said he chose MU because his sister lived near the University.

"When I applied and they found out I was a veteran, they called me asap to help.  They were great at navigating the red tape and making sure all my forms were correct," Mills said.

Now that he is attending school, Mills said the center is helping him form a network of friends with similar experiences.  "The military is famous for its acronyms, well all of us used to the military talk in acronyms, so we can relate to each other."

Fleisher added the spirit of community is what she thinks keeps the veterans successful at MU.  "I had one person who grew up in Virginia, but he said he would rather drive 1000 miles because of all the people here."


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