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MSU Student Veterans Resource Center Helps Military Veterans and Their Families Achieve Academic and Personal Success

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On this edition of MSU today, we're going to talk about Michigan State University's Student Veterans Resource Center. We're going to do that with three individuals.

Patrick Forystek is the coordinator of the Student Veterans Resource Center. Emre Umucu is an assistant professor in the Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education. And Matthew Ritt is an undergraduate student at MSU. He's studying building construction management.

“Veterans come back to school with a lot of things that make them a little bit different than your traditional students,” says Forystek. “They typically are more likely to have families, have a service-connected disability, be a little bit older, and live off campus. They're a lot like other non-traditional students but just have their own special twist on it. The center helps connect veterans to the resources they need. MSU already provides a lot of the resources that they might need, like the Student Parent Resource Center and Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. We just help connect them to those resources.”

“I was sitting in class one day and a student who had worked at the center suggested I check it out,” says Ritt. “I had no idea it existed. I stopped by there and I could get snacks there, and I could do my printing there. If I had questions about any opportunities on campus or anything going on campus or any help I needed, I could ask Patrick or anyone else that was there.”

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L to R: Umucu, Ritt, Forystek, White

“I'm doing a lot of research on understanding how to improve college adjustment, wellbeing, life satisfaction, and academic achievement in student veterans and veterans with disabilities,” adds Umucu. “I reached out to Patrick to see if we could collaborate and do some meaningful research to help MSU student veterans improve their academic achievement.”

And what are you learning in your research so far that's helping you?

“If you look at student veterans with or without disabilities, those who experience disability in an academic setting have lower levels of wellbeing and quality of life,” Umucu continues. “We also found that if we help these student veterans to have better positive emotions, better relationships with peers and faculty, or a better sense of accomplishment, they actually get better GPA's. That’s meaningful because we can develop some interventions to test here at MSU and help these student veterans to increase their positive emotions, positive relationships, meaning in life, and sense of accomplishment. Then we can help them to have better academic achievements. That will also reduce dropout. When they have higher GPA's, they will be more motivated to stay in college and be more persistent in the academic settings. Then eventually they will get better jobs. My goal is to help student veterans with and without the disabilities at MSU.”

“At the center, our programming and everything we do throughout the year relies heavily on donor funding,” continues Forystek. “That's where we need the most support. That's the best way you can support us. Or just reach out to our office. Sometimes we have opportunities for people in the community to get involved in other ways that aren't just funding related. And we're always looking for new and exciting partnerships and ways to get our veterans engaged on campus and in the community.”

“Say hi to a veteran you see and ask how it’s going. Veterans and younger students have a lot they can share with each other,” says Ritt “There are so many veterans who have been in stressful environments that they know how to get through. When students have exams and they're stressed out, reach out to a veteran in your class and ask how they deal with stress. I've asked younger students for help when I've had problems with something like Google docs and new technology. But I also have had other students say ‘Hey, I'm trying to get through my homework, but I'm having trouble balancing all this.’ I’ve tried to help.”

“We’ve been preparing some programming for Veterans Day, and I discovered some nice data points I want to share,” says Forystek. “The graduation rate for veterans nationally is about 11 percent. There are some issues with that data; it's probably a little bit higher than that if we're being honest. But MSU comes in well over 70 percent with our student veterans. It's been like that for a while. Our student veterans come back, and they do a really great job. They're phenomenal students. And most of them are first generation college students doing this for the first time.”

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and streams at WKAR.org. Find, rate, and subscribe to “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.