Within the higher education community, the University of Connecticut has achieved a reputation as an institution that values military veterans and reflects that through its programming and services.
Ranked 24th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for veterans’ services this year, the University currently enrolls about 550 veterans or current military service members, 120 military dependents and 110 ROTC students. In addition, 200 faculty and staff members are veterans.
“UConn is a place where diversity is super-important, and veterans are seen as another way that makes the school vibrant,” says U.S. Army Maj. Alyssa Kelleher ’04 (CLAS), director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs. “There is a real concern and care on how campus-wide decisions affect our veterans.”
The Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs oversees programming for veterans, as well as building a sense of community on and off the UConn campuses.
In 2015, UConn made it possible for veterans who use their service-related tuition benefits to attend the University, or send their dependents, to no longer face a deadline to enroll and receive the in-state rate. The new policy removed a federally enacted three-year requirement, so that any qualified veterans and dependents whose legal residency is outside of Connecticut and who use veterans’ educational benefits can receive the in-state rate at any time after discharge – even many years later.
UConn also offers fee-based programs for free to veterans, beyond those covered by tuition. While some veterans are traditional-aged students, many are older, have families, mortgages, and jobs, says Kelleher. “Fee-based programs, such as the night school or summer classes, sometimes fit better in to their schedules.”
“There are a lot of things that colleges have to offer veterans, but UConn goes above and beyond in many ways,” she adds.
Sam Surowitz ’16 (CLAS) is currently a graduate student in public administration and history and also the veterans program coordinator. An Army veteran with four years of active duty including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he teaches a First-Year Experience class for veterans.
“Some veteran students really identify with that part of who they are, like to hang out with other veterans, and join those types of organizations on campus,” he says.
A place for veterans to feel at home at UConn comes in a number of forms, including a special lounge in the Student Union and veterans student organizations for both undergraduate and graduate students. In addition to the Storrs main campus, there is also a veterans’ liaison on every regional campus. At the newly opened Hartford campus, there is also a veterans’ lounge.
“Veterans have served our country and our state,” says Kelleher, “they need and deserve our best every day.”