For the second consecutive year, the GI Jobs website accredited Western as being a military-friendly school, making the university one of about 1,500 schools nationwide that offers the best value, education and services for veterans.
Jordan Linayao, the veteran core navigator for the Veteran’s Service Office on campus, said about 150 veterans are currently enrolled at Western.
Support systems for veterans returning to school are particularly important because veterans sometimes have difficulty transitioning from a war-time environment to civilian life, said Paul Nicholls, Associated Students Veterans Outreach Center coordinator.
“Veterans return and sometimes feel like they have no one to talk to,” Nicholls said. “We have services to fill that gap. It’s a lot easier for us [veterans] to talk to each other than to someone who may not have had military experience.”
Western currently offers three support systems for student veterans including the Veterans Club, an Associated Students club; the Veterans Outreach Center; and the Veterans Service Office.
“We have a strong support from the staff,” Linayao said. “From the president all the way down.”
Western in particular offers several other services that contributed to its accreditation, including the ability to transfer military credits, the acceptance of the GI Bill and discounted tuition, Nicholls said.
Since the 1940s, the GI Bill was available to veterans to pay for higher education. More recently, veterans are also able to use the GI Bill to pay for job-training programs.
Other veteran-friendly factors include the existence of veteran clubs on campus, a full-time veteran counselor on staff, an advisor to assist with career placement, and the availability for military students to be called to active duty without penalty from the university, according to the GI Jobs website.
The Veteran’s Service Office, located in Old Main 365, offers similar opportunities for veterans. The office administers funds from the Department of Federal Affairs’ educational benefits to veterans.
“It serves the purpose as a place for vets to come together, network and take a load off between classes,” Linayao said.
Strong campus support helps soldiers acclimate to civilian life, but there are also services available within the great Bellingham community. Since 2003, The Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, has offered services to help vets, said Janet Marino, executive director of the WPJC.
“We’ve worked hard to cultivate a great relationship with student alliances, interns and the WWU Veterans Outreach Center,” said Marino. “The WPJC will always have an open door policy for those returning soldiers and students who wish to explore alternatives to violence as a philosphy or who have stories to share.
Throughout the year, the WPJC also sponsors speakers from the community through its partnership with religious organizations and other community members interested in speaking about peace and social justice.
“We’re grateful to the WWU community for offering a safe place for rich dialogue and critical thinking for both peace activists and the returning soldiers we support,” Marino said.
Linayao said he is grateful for the support veterans have on campus.
“The fact that our school has the VOC set up shows their commitment,” Linayao said. “I would hope that more universities contribute to their vets as much as Western does.”