DePaul University currently has the largest population of military-connected students of all universities and colleges in Chicago, and the eighth highest population overall across the state of Illinois. Additionally, DePaul’s graduation rate for military-connected students is several percentage points higher than the national average.
While DePaul has always strived to be a military-friendly institution, for more than 10 years, it has had staff and services dedicated specifically to the university’s military-affiliated population. From peer veteran liaisons to Smart Start orientation and resume workshops to quarterly career and “Veterans Connect” events, DePaul’s Veteran Student Services offer an array of on-campus programs to help students reach educational goals and earn their diplomas.
“We use the term military-affiliated because we understand the spouses and children of veterans also make sacrifices for our country. They are part of the population we serve,” says Megan Giedraitis, assistant director of Adult, Veteran and Commuter Student Affairs. “We recognize our military-affiliated student population may have more or different experiences than our traditional students, so we try to provide a range of resources to fit their specific needs. We couldn’t complete this work without the help of the Center for Students with Disabilities, the Writing Center, the Tutoring Center, Counseling Services and a number of other campus collaborators.”
Housed in the Department of Adult, Veteran and Commuter Student Affairs, Veteran Student Services assists student veterans in their transition from combat to college, and from college to careers. Through interdepartmental collaborations, work with external partners, and tailored programs and resources, Veteran Student Affairs aims to support DePaul’s military-affiliated students in achieving their academic goals.
“Beyond transitional and academic support, DePaul also is a Yellow Ribbon school,” Giedraitis says. “Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the federal government covers a certain amount of tuition for veterans. DePaul opts to match that amount of tuition coverage, lightening the tuition burden as much as possible for our eligible students. Unlike most other institutions, we also did not set a cap on the number of students who can participate in our Yellow Ribbon program. We want to help as many students as we can.”
This quarter, Veteran Student Services launched a number of new initiatives, including a peer-coaching program. In this program, designated student veteran liaisons team with military-connected students to identify and work towards goals, which can range from getting an A in a math class to exercising twice a week, ultimately building relationships while working towards a range of objectives. Military-affiliated students also have a designated lounge on campus to meet peers and further build their network of support at DePaul.
In addition to the new peer-coaches pilot program, Veteran Student Affairs also began working with the Jesse Brown V.A. Hospital this fall to bring a specialized counselor to campus. Each Monday, DePaul’s military-affiliated students can meet one-on-one with a counselor from the V.A. hospital.
“DePaul already has a wonderful amount of counseling offerings, but we’re thrilled to be working with Jesse Brown in bringing a counselor with veteran-specific experience to campus,” Giedraitis says. “The programs and support we aim to provide at DePaul is the least we can do for veterans and their families. These students have made so many sacrifices for our communities and country, and we can’t thank them enough.”