General Electric has awarded Xavier a $1.5 million grant for the Student Veterans Center to strengthen services to veterans who enroll in Xavier's graduate and undergraduate programs using the Post 9/11 GI Bill.
Center Director Chris Klug says the grant has allowed the Center to expand into a full-service "one-stop shop" for student veterans, whose numbers have increased to nearly 200 this year.
At an event announcing the grant on Thursday, Sept. 29, in the center at the Conaton Learning Commons on campus, GE Vice Chair and GE Aviation President and CEO David Joyce praised the University for its commitment to serving veterans.
"We have a very simple goal—to make Xavier the destination of choice for veterans who want an exceptional education experience and create an academic community that allows veterans to thrive and grow,” said Joyce, who earned his MBA at Xavier in 1996. “We want them to find XU and Cincinnati full of opportunity—for personal and academic growth, advancement and employment.
"GE cares deeply about our military veterans, and we recognize Xavier’s remarkable commitment to veterans over the years. We’re proud to be supporting the University’s expanding program for attracting veterans and supporting veteran students.”
President Michael Graham, S.J., credited GE for helping make Xavier the best university for veterans' education.
"This very generous and continued commitment from GE will allow us to do even more to serve the men and women who have served our country so well," Graham said. "We envisioned the possibility of doing something mission-centric to GE and Xavier, and now because of what you're doing, there will be no better place veterans. And for that, I salute you."
In addition to the grant, GE is also providing the resources for Ride 2 Recovery, a program devoted to improving physical and mental health for veterans, some of whom are recovering from physical injuries. Located in Xavier's Center for Innovation on campus, the program plans events for veterans including cross-country bike ride challenges.
Xavier's commitment to veterans dates back to 1875, when St. Xavier College organized the St. Xavier Cadets in recognition of the nation's centennial in 1876. Military training began during World War I, and Xavier established a Reserve Officer Training Corps in the buildup to World War II. Army ROTC was mandatory until 1969, but Army ROTC today remains popular and is one of the highest-achieving programs in the nation.
With a $100,000 gift from GE last winter, the center was able to move from its house on Dana Avenue into new space on the fifth floor of the learning commons, Klug says. It includes a lounge and kitchen, televisions, a ping pong table, and a conference room for group projects or quiet study, plus computers and large screen monitors for students to use. An elevator provides handicapped access to the center.
Now the grant is enabling the center to hire an assistant director and an academic advisor, so that students can receive all the services they need in one place. The advisor will work as an admissions counselor, recruiting and admitting students and advising them while they are enrolled. He will also be certified to process their GI Bill benefits. Klug works with students to find internships and employment after graduation.
The center is also creating a peer-to-peer program that pairs incoming freshmen with student veterans who will stay in touch with them throughout their time at Xavier. "Once here, we're not going to lose track of them ever again," Klug says.
The grant will be budgeted over five years and is expected to help increase overall enrollment of veterans.
"We think we can double the number of student veterans to about 400 in the next four years," Klug says.
For Air Force veteran Spencer Rumley, president of Student Veterans of Xavier, Xavier is the best place for veterans to get a degree for several reasons, beginning with the GI Bill. Under the bill, veterans receive free tuition at public colleges and universities, but at private schools, the GI Bill does not always cover the entire tuition.
As a Yellow Ribbon School, however, Xavier covers what the GI Bill does not, enabling veterans to receive full tuition benefits.
"Xavier is unique because everything is 100-percent covered through a combination of the GI Bill, Xavier and Veterans Affairs," Rumley says.
And the new space, he says, helps veterans feel more connected to the University.
"At a lot of universities, many veterans feel a little left out," he says. "It's great that Xavier has a veterans center, because we're all brothers and sisters, and we want to hang out with people who have served, have similar experiences and are similar in age. I'm here every day. I come here to study or if I just want a break, I'll play ping-pong. I'll store food here or grab a free coffee or pop. It's a way to de-stress."
The Center for Veterans Affairs also has programs that help veterans develop professional skills. GE, which offers resumé-writing classes and other professional training on campus, has hired at least eight of Xavier's veterans within the last few years and has offered a number of internships.
Feature Image: Fr. Michael Graham, S.J., far left, GE Vice Chair and XU alum David Joyce, and Veterans Center Director Chris Klug, far right.