SIUC’s military image has been recognized again.
G.I. Jobs magazine named SIUC in the top 15 percent of the most military friendly schools in America for 2013. Ben Langdon, marketing coordinator for G.I Jobs magazine, said the list is determined by research from the G.I. Jobs Military Friendly Schools team, which includes government agencies and private entities.
Rod Santulan, coordinator of Veteran Services, said he has always considered awards and recognitions as accomplishments, but what the staff at the program care most about is customer feedback.
“I always read the comments from the students because that’s what makes us more credible,” he said. “How they feel is a critical key to our assessment.”
Zack Kodatt, a junior from Morton studying criminology and criminal justice, is a part of SIU’s Army ROTC and said he chose to attend the university because of it’s military program and the campus’ scenery.
Kodatt said examples of military friendly events include a car wash the ROTC hosted last weekend and the ROTC Color Guard performance at home football and basketball games.
Mark Trumbull, a U.S. Navy veteran and senior from Rockford studying history who works in the Veterans Center, said the center counsels incoming veteran students on everything from the admissions application, transfer credits, financial aid and eligible benefits. Staff at the center also brief veterans on available federal, state, local and university resources such as healthcare options and accommodations for wounded warriors through the university’s Disability Support Services.
Trumbull said there was no Veterans Center when he first came to SIU in 2008, and no part of orientation was geared toward veteran needs or the benefits military members and veterans could receive.
Now, Trumball said, there is a separate orientation just for veterans who are new to the university.
“I had to lurk around on my own to find the Veterans Educational Services Office in Woody Hall,” Trumbull said. “Having a separate Veterans Center since then has been a big improvement for our incoming veterans.”
Dan Perritt, a sophomore from Chicago studying physical education teacher education, said he contacted SIU when he got out of the service because his best friend told him about the military program.
“The program has been great. They immediately welcome us aboard, educated us on our veteran benefits, helped us create a degree plan and just helped us with any and everything we needed,” Perritt said.
While many students believe the Veterans Program is nothing but positive, some students feel it could use some improvements to live up to the recognition it has recieved.
Ryan McKennedy, a senior from Rochester studying psychology and vice president of the Registered Student Organization Veterans Organization, said his decision to attend SIU was mainly because the university received the G.I Jobs award in 2008, but he has mixed feelings after actually being involved in the program.
“One of the main things that stuck out to me about SIU is the opportunities they give veterans for higher education,” McKennedy said. “I applied here without telling them I was a veteran and wasn’t accepted. I then let them know I was a vet and they accepted me.”
McKennedy said that he would, however, like to see more effort and support from the administration because the veterans program is such a huge service at the university.
“The whole veterans program is good. We do everything we can to help each other within our program,” McKennedy said. “There are lots of positive things going on and good things in place, but there’s also a lot more that can be done.”