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New PLA position, student center to benefit veterans at Tech

Pearson, Buddy
Published Wednesday Jul 19, 2017
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Pictured outside the newly-renovated Jere Whitson Memorial Building where a new veterans student center will be located are (from left) Army veteran Chris Benedict, VA certifying official Mary Benedict, Army veteran Chris Eckartz, Director of Military and Veteran Affairs Kevin Flanary, and Navy veteran Jill Osborne.

Since creating an Office of Military and Veterans Affairs in 2014, Tennessee Tech has been focused on enhancing the college experience for veterans.

The office helps vets and military dependents navigate benefits and the GI Bill while helping provide support with the transition from the military to an academic environment.

“A lot of veterans have transition issues coming back from deployments and back from active duty to being a civilian,” said Ret. Army Sgt. 1st class Kevin Flanary, director of Tech’s military and veteran affairs office. “Generally, they are a little bit older than the students who go to class with them. It’s a little different system than what they are used to. It can cause anxiety and be a little overwhelming.”

The recent approval of a grant to create a Prior Learning Assessment coordinator position and the completion of a veteran student center bring new resources to assist veteran students at Tech.

“In the last three years, we have grown 32.8 percent in our veteran enrollment,” said Flanary. “Although we have a veteran and military affairs office, we don’t have a place that is a gathering spot for them.”

In the newly renovated Jere Whitson Memorial Building, veterans and their dependents will have a place of their own. The Tennessee Tech Eagles Wings Student Center is expected to be open before the fall semester begins on Aug. 28. The 1,028-square-foot center will include computers, printers, a study area and a lounge area. It will also include tutoring and information from disability services, career services, county veterans services and local employers.

“It’s an area they can call their own. They can chill out between classes and don’t have to talk about military stuff. They can just relax,” said Flanary. “We have been pushing hard for it the last few years. It’s just been a matter of finding the space and finding some of the funds.”

While Flanary has been working hard to get donations and funding for the center, a grant recently awarded to Tech will help fund a new position to help vets as well. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission awarded Tech $71,355 of Veteran Reconnect funds which is part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55.

“It’s great. We are thrilled,” said Kim Godwin, director of accelerated degree programs, who applied for the grant. “We are excited about the opportunity this will give to our veteran students. This is something we’ve been talking about for about two years.”

Prior Learning Assessments give adults college credit for their work experience, including military experience. The PLA coordinator will review the transcripts of veterans and be responsible for assisting in the development, implementation and promotion of college-wide PLA initiatives and communications.

“We know it’s a priority for our institution to better serve the veteran population and growing our adult population,” said Godwin. “We are hoping to get someone hired as soon as possible.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Tech had 220 veterans and 112 students who are dependents receiving veterans affairs benefits. With that number expected to grow in 2017-18, Flanary is hoping the new PLA coordinator and the student center will make Tennessee Tech an even more attractive place for veterans to land.

“I want them to feel like we are taking veterans and their dependents under our wings,” said Flanary. “We’ve improved a lot of processes for vets. We make it easy for them and we want to make their time on campus easy for them as well. My goal is for us to be the number one choice for veterans in the state of Tennessee.”

For more information about services for veteran students at Tech, visit www.tntech.edu/em/military-and-veterans-affairs/student-veterans/.

Student Veterans Week in Tennessee

Kevin Flanary
Published Wednesday Feb 22, 2016

Director of Military and Veteran Affairs at Tennessee Tech University

Governor Haslam has proclaimed February 21-27, 2016 as Student Veterans Week in Tennessee http://tnsos.net/publications/proclamations/files/960.pdf  Thank you to our student veterans all across the state for your loyal service, and for choosing Tennessee as the place where you wish to pursue your future. We are honored by your service and humbled by your sacrifice. Several colleges and universities are showing their gratitude and recognizing their veterans in different ways this week. At TN Tech University, we are providing lunch on Wednesday to all of our students who are current active, guard, or reserve members as well as all prior service. It is honestly a very small token of appreciation, but it's our way of saying thank you. I am likely not alone when I say that holidays such as Veterans' Day and Memorial Day should not be recognized once year, but on daily basis. The same goes when it comes to my current post. I am glad that we are formally recognizing our student veterans this week, but rather than thanking and recognizing them for their service, I feel we should be focused on giving them true support every week of the year.

Thank a student veteran this week and every week, it's very easy to do and they'll appreciate it.

Tech receives praise for veteran assistance

By Kayla Clouse
On February 5, 2015

Tennessee Tech is the first school to be named as a “VETS (Veterans Education Transition Support) campus” by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Tech administers orientation programs for veterans, facilitates support programs, provides potential program credit for skills and provides a campus survey to help identify the needs, issues and suggestions of veteran students.

“It would help to have a greater understanding of military culture and the discipline they go through. I think it's important that faculty, advisers and staff know what to expect and how the vets sometimes deal with things,” said Kevin Flanary, director of military and veteran affairs. “You have these 18-year-old kids playing on their cellphones and whining during class, and (the vets) just got back from living in a tent for a year. That can be pretty frustrating to them.”

Flanary plans to establish a center for veterans on campus where they can relax, study and receive information about academic benefits.

“We just want the vets to feel like family when they come here and know that they're taken care of,” said Flanary. “I've made that transition, too, from combat to classroom. I used my GI Bill. I understand both sides of it and the issues they face. I think it just helps to build bonds early with the vets in their process of coming to Tech.”

According to the U.S. News and World Report, Tech is on the 2015 list for the top 10 universities in the south for veterans. Military Advanced Education awarded Tech “Top School” for three consecutive years and Victory Media reported Tech as being a “Military Friendly” school for three consecutive years.

“We are reaching out and really trying to help with their transition,” said Flanary. “I think it'll really help with recruiting.”

For additional information on veteran’s benefits, email Dean of Student Activities Mark Ochsenbein at MOch@tntech.edu.

TTU receives veteran outreach and support award

Shull, Lauren lshull@tntech.edu Published: Tue Jan 27, 2015

Tennessee Tech is the first Tennessee university to be formally awarded Veterans Education Transition Support Campus certification, an honor that reinforces the university’s commitment to veterans.

Representatives from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission presented the certificate to TTU president Phil Oldham in a ceremony last week.

“This is a commitment that we make as an institution,” said Oldham. “We have a long history of being military friendly. A long list of Tech graduates have gone to serve in all ranks, theaters and areas of service. Hopefully we’re seeing just the start of many more things to come.”

To qualify for the designation, institutions must meet a number of requirements that show a university prioritizes outreach to veterans and delivers a supportive atmosphere.

The university recently created an Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, which helps veterans and military dependents navigate veterans benefits and the GI bill. Staff also provide support with transitioning to and succeeding in the academic environment.

Kevin Flanary, director of the office, said he plans to establish a veterans center on campus, where veterans can study, relax and learn more about academic benefits.

“The least we can do is to endeavor to provide education for veterans when they return and help ease their transition back into society,”said Russ Deaton, interim executive director for THEC. “We are honored to play a role in this, by being the authorizing entity for the state of Tennessee.”

Tennessee Rep. Ryan Williams sponsored legislation that established the VETS program and attended the campus event.

TTU is the third Tennessee Board of Regents university to receive this designation, and the seventh institution in the state.

Photo ID:

Pictured (L-R): state Rep. Ryan Williams; Scott Sloan, general council of THEC; Tom Morrison, assistant executive director of THEC; Russ Deaton, interim executive director of THEC; TTU president Phil Oldham; Bobby Hodum, associate vice president of enrollment management and student success at TTU; Kevin Flanary, director of military and veterans affairs at TTU; Stephen Peterson, TTU professor of military science.