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Media Contacts

Margaret Baechtold
IU Bloomington Veterans Support Services

Susan Richards
IUPUI Office for Veteran and Military Personnel

Mary Blakefield
IU East

Cari Edwards
IU Southeast

Last modified: Thursday, July 30, 2009

Four IU campuses receive Operation Diploma grants to support students in the military and vets

July 30, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Four campuses of Indiana University have received grants totaling $52,700 from Operation Diploma to provide additional support to students now serving in the military and to veterans.

graduate illustration

Photo illustration by Chris Meyer

IU Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, IU Southeast and IU East received the grants through an initiative of the Military Family Research Institution at Purdue University, which was created through a $5.8-million gift from Lilly Endowment.

Each campus will use the funding for efforts to improve academic persistence and success among student service members and veterans. More than $270,000 was awarded to 21 higher education institutions in Indiana during this initial round of funding.

"It's a welcomed opportunity, through the generosity of the Lilly Endowment through MFRI, to be able to increase the kinds of services and support we provide student veterans at campuses across Indiana University," said Margaret Baechtold, director of veterans support services at IU Bloomington and co-chair of IU's university-wide Veterans Services Coordinating Committee.

"Our focus is making sure that their educational benefits and their support while they are here as students is as thorough and as efficient as possible," Baechtold added.

More than 7,500 Indiana veterans used GI Bill education benefits in 2008, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The new GI bill, which goes into effect Aug.1, is expected to attract more veterans and student service members to campuses across the state and the nation. IUPUI, with at least 1,300 student veterans, has the largest number of enrolled veterans and military personnel of any campus in the state.

IU Bloomington and IUPUI each received $15,000 and will create new Web portals. The "virtual veterans' centers" will enable students who are in the military or who are veterans to access critical information anytime from anywhere. The sites will provide information about benefits from the Veterans Administration and other agencies, financial aid available at IU and elsewhere, and other information specific to the needs of student veterans. There will be links to application forms, including those enabling student veterans to apply for transcript credits for military training.

A key feature will be an educational benefit decision-making tree, which will help guide a student in selecting an appropriate federal or state benefit and demystify the many benefits and services available to veterans and military personnel, said Susan Richards, manager of IUPUI's Office for Veterans and Military Personnel.

"IUPUI considers this an opportunity to not only share this decision-making tree model with other higher education institutions, but hopefully create a national best practice in the area of veteran education," Richards said.

The IU East campus received $7,700 to establish a peer mentoring program for student service personnel. The peer mentors will initiate a Student Veterans Organization, and develop a resource center with information about relevant campus and community services. The peer mentors also will be available to provide personal support to other student service personnel.

At IU Southeast, the $15,000 grant will be used to hire a staff member who will support student veterans and their families by helping them reacclimate to civilian and college life. The money will also support the creation of a student veterans organization and provide educational programming and mentoring to assist student veterans and their families.

Baechtold said that other IU campuses not receiving funding through Operation Diploma also will benefit from these projects. The Veterans Services Coordinating Committee, with representation from each IU-administered campus, continues to look for ways to make IU campuses more user-friendly providers of choice for military personnel.

"Indiana colleges and universities know that veterans and student service members face different challenges on campus than other segments of the student body," said Stacie Hitt, director of Operation Diploma. "The depth and breadth of programming we saw in the applications demonstrates Indiana's commitment to making veterans and student service members feel supported and welcome in this state."