Institute awards more than $10,000 to student veterans' groups
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Military Family Research Institute at Purdue University awarded more than $10,000 to six Indiana student veterans' organizations that are helping student service members and veterans successfully transition to higher education settings.
The grants, awarded this month through MFRI's Operation Diploma initiative, ranged from $1,000 to $2,000. Operation Diploma is an MFRI initiative launched to support and strengthen Indiana's higher education institutions and student veterans' organizations (SVOs).
"Student veterans' organizations are making a difference on campuses throughout Indiana," said MFRI director Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth. "They are motivating their members to access the spectrum of higher education services available to them, and they are contributing to the success of student service members and veterans as they pursue their dreams and goals."
In the category of new and emerging SVOs, the panel awarded top honors and a grant of $2,000 each to the student veterans' organizations at the following universities:
* First place: Indiana University South Bend
* Second place: Ivy Tech Community College Wabash Valley
* Third place: Ball State University
SVOs associated with IUPUI and Ivy Tech Lafayette received $1,000 and $1,400, respectively.
Major initiatives for IU South Bend included recruiting new members and increasing the SVO's visibility on campus. Jason Wright, 25, an IUSB student and Army veteran, said the grant will help the SVO achieve its goals.
"There is a need for student help because the campus can be a bit overwhelming at first," he said. "This is where our SVO comes into action. We will be able to fund a Veterans Day dinner and thank-you celebration … and have more meetings and social functions to bring the veterans together."
The SVO at Ivy Tech Wabash Valley will use its grant to strengthen bonds among veterans on campus and in the community, while improving academic support for campus veterans by providing textbooks and tutoring.
"The majority of our students need a way to transition back into the community after living the military life," said Maria Bonilla, a 43-year-old Navy veteran and member of the SVO at Wabash Valley. "Many students need to be connected to the community and the services, both veteran and civilian, that are available for them and their families."
In the category of established programs that could be enhanced or expanded with grant funds, the panel awarded top honors and a grant of $2,000 to the SVO associated with Ivy Tech Community College Richmond. This SVO will continue to work on some of its most successful programs, such as its Library of Congress veterans' history project.
Proposals were evaluated according to criteria that included quality of mission, clarity of initiatives and a renewed sustainability. The judges were: Russ Eaglin, the veteran service officer for Indianapolis Mayor Gregory A. Ballard; Don MacKay, director of business integration of Sears Holdings Management Corp.; Bryan Morris, a founding member of Purdue's SVO; and Stacie Jeffirs, director of the Career Crossings Office at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame.
"It was such an honor to be a judge for this SVO competition," Jeffers said. "All of the students did an excellent job at presenting their proposals on how they wish to build their SVOs at each of their campuses. What helped the winning teams stand out were their efforts to provide holistic support to student veterans and their partnerships with key administration and campus leaders."
Stacie Hitt, director of MFRI's Operation Diploma, added, "This is now our third fall competition, and the evolution of proposals is remarkable. SVOs have moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach to proposing initiatives that reflect their campus culture. This is very encouraging from the standpoint of engaging with the larger campus community."
Operation Diploma engages and educates higher education stakeholders on the issues surrounding student service members and veterans. Through this initiative, MFRI has since 2008 awarded nearly $2.4 million to higher education institutions and SVOs. Nearly $50,000 has been awarded directly to student veterans' organizations.
The Military Family Research Institute is a research and outreach organization based at Purdue and supported by Lilly Endowment Inc., the Department of Defense and others. To view top presentations by student veteran organizations, visit the MFRI online at http://www.mfri.purdue.edu and click on the "Programs and Grants" tab.
Writer: Jeanne Norberg, 765-494-2084, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Michael F. Marn, director of communications, 765-496-6027, email@example.com