- Monday, 12 August 2013
WASHINGTON, DC--Today, Student Veterans of America's (SVA) executive director Michael Dakduk issued the following statement in response to President Obama's announcement over the weekend of the "8 Keys to Success," the administration's step-by-step guide to supporting veterans on campus:
“I applaud President Obama for not only encouraging institutions of higher education to be more supportive of veterans, but providing colleges and universities with a framework for success. SVA has played a significant role over the past five years in advancing the dialogue around campus level improvements to support student veterans. However, I am discouraged that the administration did not reach out to the only campus-based veterans organization exclusively dedicated to veterans, servicemembers, and their families in higher education. SVA has made great strides in implementing the ‘8 Keys to Success’ prior to its inception. I look forward to working more closely with the administration as our organization continues to push for increased support for our nation’s student veteran population.”
SVA’s role on each of the 8 Keys to Success are highlighted below.
The “8 Keys to Success” include the following:
1. Create a culture of trust and connectedness across the campus community to promote well-being and success for Veterans.
SVA’s Role: SVA began on roughly 20 campuses in 2008 to create a network of connectedness through a peer support model. Now, SVA is on over 850 campuses in all 50 states including community colleges, trade schools, four-year public and private universities, and at online institutions.
2. Ensure consistent and sustained support from campus leadership.
SVA’s Role: SVA’s executive director Michael Dakduk has traveled to over half of the country and has met with leaders from over 100 institutions of higher education. Most recently, Mr. Dakduk accompanied Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to the University of North Carolina where they met with UNC president Tom Ross and other leaders from across the 16-campus university system.
3. Implement an early alert system to ensure all Veterans receive academic, career, and financial advice before challenges become overwhelming.
SVA’s Role: SVA recently launched a pilot program, the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE), in collaboration with the University of Michigan Depression Center, that addresses these challenges. PAVE is a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with those already on campus in order to help them navigate college life, identify challenges, refer them to the appropriate resources on or off campus, and provide ongoing academic and personal support. Additionally, SVA chapters across the country have implemented local programs to connect veterans with financial, academic, and post-graduation career support. Our current chapter of the month, the Veterans Student Organization at the University of Colorado Denver, worked with their university to create a career mentoring program known as Boots to Suits.
4. Coordinate and centralize campus efforts for all Veterans, together with the creation of a designated space (even if limited in size).
SVA’s Role: SVA has long played a role in the establishment of veteran centers on campus through campus level advocacy, letter writing campaigns to university presidents, and site visits to see the best veteran resource centers in action. Great examples include the Pat Tillman Veteran Center at Arizona State University, the Veteran Center at the University of Arizona, the Veteran Resource Center at Auburn University, and the Veterans Center at St. Petersburg College. SVA’s executive director has personally visited each center.
5. Collaborate with local communities and organizations, including government agencies, to align and coordinate various services for Veterans.
SVA’s Role: SVA has been working with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to increase collaboration amongst SVA chapters and posts. Currently, The American Legion, VFW, and SVA are working nationally, and state-by-state, to extend in-state tuition for veterans. This will allow more veterans to maximize their GI Bill and reduce the potential for high loan debt.
At the state level, SVA’s executive director met with the Nevada Office of Veterans Services executive director, Caleb Cage, to learn more about the Green Zone Initiative which seeks to connect community based organizations and resources, including education resources, with veterans. In the Midwest, SVA works closely with Joining Forces Illinois in a statewide effort to coordinate veteran and military support.
6. Use a uniform set of data tools to collect and track information on Veterans, including demographics, retention and degree completion.
SVA’s Role: SVA has lead the effort on tracking veteran academic outcomes over the past year. At the SVA National Conference in January, Secretary Eric Shinseki announced a partnership between SVA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Student Clearinghouse to develop a database to track veteran graduation rates, time to completion, and fields of study on nearly 1 million student veterans dating back to 2002.
7. Provide comprehensive professional development for faculty and staff on issues and challenges unique to Veterans.
SVA’s Role: Every SVA chapter is required to have a faculty or staff advisor. This requirement exists mainly to ensure student veteran groups have a liaison between student veterans and the faculty and administration. In addition, many SVA chapters develop specialized training aimed at familiarizing staff and faculty with the student veteran experience and educating the administration on challenges facing this unique student population.
8. Develop systems that ensure sustainability of effective practices for Veterans.SVA’s Role: SVA regularly fights for institutionalizing programs and policies to make campuses more supportive of veterans, servicemembers, and their families. At the university system level, the University of North Carolina’s UNC SERVES initiative seeks to coordinate and sustain veteran support on all 16 UNC campuses throughout the state. Additionally, Florida State University (FSU) has made a long-term commitment to supporting veterans by working with the SVA chapter on campus. Now, under the leadership of president Eric Barron, FSU boasts a student veteran retention rate hovering around 88 percent and is quickly becoming one of the best universities for veterans, servicemembers, and their families.
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a press release on the "8 Keys to Success" earlier today, and the Department of Education recently released a map of the "8 Keys to Success" sites.