By Justin Doering
The honors continue for the University of Nebraska at Omaha. During the Veteran’s Day week, America drew together to celebrate military veterans, and UNO was recognized as the “Best for Vets: 2015.”
The U.S. Education Department compiled data including academic success metrics in conjunction with survey responses by Military Times to select UNO as tops among several hundred four-year schools. UNO is receiving this accolade for the second year in a row.
Schools and veteran students must work together to tackle the biggest challenges. When a veteran becomes a student, they experience a sudden loss of camaraderie and sense of purpose they believed in while serving.
That is where UNO’s own Office of Military Veterans (OMV) comes in.
“The first service a veteran will realize we provide when they want to enroll in UNO, is reaching out to them. We help them set up their (Post-9/11) ‘G.I.’ Bill, we help them find out what classes they want,” Said OMV student secretary Zachary Meade. “Anything they need to know about the college life, we try our best to help them.” Meade said.
Meade says the transition for veterans into civilian life can be very challenging. OMV even helps with their studies.
“If they’re struggling with a class, we have tutors, mathematics, English, anything,” Meade said. If there’s anyone in the office, they are absolutely there to help them with that as well.”
Meade says one thing veterans lack that traditional students have is a social network entering college.
“We provide a [social] community for these veterans to get in touch with the college life, to stay here,” Meade said. “It helps retention rates because when you become part of the community, you want to stay a part of the community.”
Harrison Johnson, Student President of OMV, pointed out some important things in the near future to increase awareness for the organization.
“Coming up, we will be hosting some events to bring to light some issues, such as suicide affecting our military veterans. We will be doing our annual Tribute to the Fallen,” Johnson said. “We will be placing up to 6,800 flags in UNO’s Pep Bowl to represent those who gave their lives during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also will be volunteering with Food Bank of the Heartland and Hospice Care Center. Those events will be bringing our volunteer veterans to interact with community leaders involved with these important issues.”
Johnson said he appreciates how traditional students take the time to reach out to veterans, to thank them for their service. He also wants to encourage them to have a conversation.
“Get a little deeper into what they’ve experienced, because a lot of students don’t know. They have a lot of misconceptions about what veterans are and what they can bring to the table.”
UNO’s Office of Military Veterans serves more than 1,600 students. The population is made up of active duty, guardsmen, reservists, retirees and their family members.