Start here. Go anywhere! You’ve heard our pledge to students, but what does it really mean? For most, it means finding and following their dreams, and getting the most out of a more affordable educational investment.
Some Kirkwood students have already been “anywhere” and everywhere. They’re military service people who have traveled to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kosovo, Iraq, Egypt… you name it. But they’re coming to Kirkwood to “go anywhere” in a different sense: to journey farther into their education and their career dreams.
Deemed “military friendly” by multiple military publications, Kirkwood has had strong veteran enrollment for years. Enrollment has grown steadily and now stands close to 800 students, both veterans and active duty military personnel.
“There’s a large Army Reserve and National Guard population in Iowa. I network with those education offices to help soldiers navigate the tuition assistance process,” said Vicki Terronez, Kirkwood’s long-time veteran certifying official. “As the veterans services coordinator and school certifying official, I am fortunate to be able to concentrate all my energy on assisting our veterans with all aspects of transitioning to college life. They appreciate having a central contact to help with military paperwork, admission, financial aid, registration, military transcript evaluation and tuition assistance. They know where to find me!”
Kirkwood’s many academic programs, affordable tuition, small class sizes and flexible schedules all contribute to the college’s success with its veterans’ program. Other factors that appeal to veterans transitioning back to college are the acceptance military credit based on ACE recommendations; Kirkwood’s 20 minute distance from the VA Medical Center; convenient access to counseling services at the Cedar Rapids Vets Center; and local treatment options at the Cedar Rapids Community Based Outpatient Clinic for veterans.
“Word travels fast. While deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-2011, many of our student veterans called me to inquire what was needed to get started in college when they returned. Often times, they handed the phone to buddies who decided to transfer to Kirkwood based on the information they heard from the others,” Vicki said. “And we still hear from past student veterans, just checking in to say hello. I love that they still think of us. ”
Much of that loyalty likely comes from Vicki and other staffers taking the time to get to know the veterans and focus on their individual needs. “Our administration, staff, faculty and student body help promote a supportive environment for veterans. We value our student veterans and current military here at Kirkwood,” she said. “Many tell me their time at Kirkwood was memorable. They liked the classes, the professors and the campus as a whole. They felt valued and appreciated. They gained confidence to continue to a university. There’s no higher reward than getting to serve those who served and knowing it really made a difference.”
The veteran’s lounge
In the spring of 2008, Vicki Terronez, Kirkwood’s veterans’ certifying official, and a group of student veterans had lunch with college President Mick Starcevich and a few Kirkwood board members. The students appealed to college administration for a private space where they could gather.
“A few months later, we were given the Governors Room in Iowa Hall,” Vicki said. “It was cleared out and painted. I was able to order furniture and carpet, while we anxiously awaited the grand opening of our new Veterans Lounge. A week before we were to move in, the Flood of 2008 struck. Every available space on campus was filled with displaced businesses and organizations, our room included.”
The opportunity to help during the flood offset any disappointment over the delay. The lounge opened in January 2009. “It was a hit from the beginning, promoting camaraderie and offering a quiet study area/sanctuary for our student veterans,” Vicki said. “Today we have six new computers, a printer, nice furnishings, study tables, an information board, brochure racks, flags, refrigerator and two microwaves with donated snacks.”
Don Tyne, director of Linn County VA, comes to the lounge on Thursday mornings to help veterans sign up for the VA Medical Center, check on disability claims, locate lost military documents and just visit with student veterans. The local VFW and AMVETS chapters, American Legion Posts and other organizations stop by occasionally. “We recently installed new window treatments for the lounge funded by the Cedar Rapids AMVETS Post #6. The VFW Men’s Unit Post #788 purchased a refrigerator for the lounge and funded a veteran scholarship. The Sons of the AMVETS Post #6 made a generous cash donation to be used as emergency funds for veterans in need of books,” Vicki said. “Community support has been invaluable. We are extremely grateful.”
New this spring: Purple Heart Endowed Scholarship
- A recent private donation of $350,000 to support those veterans awarded the Purple Heart through full-tuition scholarships
- Recipients will have tuition and books covered for the course of their programs
- Qualified applicants are soldiers who have received a Purple Heart and their spouses and children