Operation Diploma to help university become more 'veteran friendly'

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
July 20, 2009

Indiana State University continues to expand its efforts to serve returning veterans.

An Operation Diploma grant from the Military Family Research Institute will enable the university to reach out in new ways to service personnel who want to begin or continue their higher education, according to John Beacon, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications.

"Operation Diploma is an important addition to the steps Indiana State University has already taken to ensure our returning servicemen and women are welcome on our campus and have the resources needed to be successful in the classroom," Beacon said. "Veterans are an important resource to any community, but especially to a university community because of the invaluable skills and experiences they can share with other students."

Based at Purdue University, the Military Family Research Institute is administering a grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund a statewide initiative dubbed "Operation Diploma: Military Friendly Services and Resources."

An initial award of nearly $15,000 for the first year of Indiana State’s participation is intended to assist in meeting five main objectives:

• Make ISU more "veteran friendly" by identifying and addressing any roadblocks to success.

• Establish a Veterans Resource Center to serve as a central site where veterans can connect with other vets and access resource materials.

• Partner with other local institutions.

• Develop a comprehensive guide to campus and community services for veteran students and their families as well as a guide for faculty and staff aimed at increasing awareness of ISU’s veterans activation policy and helping them assist veterans more effectively.

• Create baseline data and track student veterans to support their retention and graduation.

Nearly 200 student veterans currently attend Indiana State and that number could increase substantially as more troops return from active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 28,000 Indiana service personnel have been deployed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

As the only Terre Haute-area college or university with a veterans’ services coordinator on its campus, Indiana State will partner with Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, St. Mary-of-the-Woods College and Harrison College (formerly Indiana Business College) to ensure student veterans get the most from their GI Bill benefits.

Operation Diploma builds on other initiatives Indiana State has already put in place, including the hiring of a 38-year National Guard veteran to coordinate veterans’ services on campus, a one-semester tuition waiver for certain veterans returning from overseas duty and participation in the Department of Veterans Affairs "Yellow Ribbon" campaign which provides additional financial assistance to GI Bill eligible veterans.

In addition, ISU has a variety of other resources available. These include the Student Veterans Organization, which coordinates activities for student veterans and their families; Vet to Vet, which connects area veterans needing assistance with the right person or agency; transfer credit for the Associate in Applied Science Degree from the Community College of the Air Force; and a Student Support Services/Disability Services Office to assist veterans with disabilities.

Mike Caress, the university’s veterans services coordinator since 2006 and project director for Operation Diploma, is one of six military veterans who will serve on an eight-member campus-wide Operation Diploma success team.

"With the additional resources made possible via Lilly Endowment’s generous gift to Operation Diploma, Indiana State is more committed than ever to ensuring the success of student veterans," said Caress. "Students here never have to look far to find a fellow veteran they can turn to for camaraderie or assistance."

Contact: John Beacon, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications, Indiana State University, 812-237-3660 or john.beacon@indstate.edu; or Mike Caress, veterans services coordinator, Office of Admissions, Indiana State University, 812-237-2540 or mcaress@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu