May 2, 2024

by Jonathan Lovejoy, Senior Director of Military & Veteran Affairs

At UIW, supporting military-connected students is not only a goal, but a mission and priority – in fact, it is one of eight Strategic Priorities that the University has used to guide its operations.

In support of this strategic priority, the vision of UIW’s Military and Veteran Center is to aspire to be the premier provider of educational opportunities to active-duty military members, veterans and their families. It was the University’s dedication and commitment to this vision that recently earned the institution recognition as the #1 school in the nation in the Military Times “Best for Vets: Colleges” rankings. The University’s Military and Veteran Center (MVC) is the school’s hub for military and veteran students, and it is the Center’s work over the last several years that truly put UIW on the map.

The UIW MVC can trace its roots back to UIW’s School of Professional Studies (SPS). Formerly known as the Center for Veteran Affairs, it was established in the SPS offices at St. Anthony Catholic High School in October 2009. The Center was adjacent to the office of Karen Wyatt, who was selected as its first director in February 2010. The MVC consisted of a few rooms in the University's former Adult Education and Virtual University office. This dedicated space was meticulously crafted to cater to the unique needs of military-connected students, offering personalized assistance and support. The Center later moved to the Watson building, located across the street from UIW's Broadway campus, to be more conveniently located and better assist military-connected students. Currently, over 50% of SPS students are military-connected.

In 2015, the MVC found a new home in the Columkille Administration Building on the Broadway campus. In 2019, upon the Student Engagement Center (SEC)'s completion, a significant milestone was marked when a dedicated MVC was opened in the new building. The MVC then settled into its current offices, where it provides a space for military-connected students to study, hold group meetings and unwind with a cup of generously donated coffee. This space also serves as a hub for community-building and camaraderie among veterans, active-duty personnel and military family members. The relocation demonstrated UIW’s commitment to military-connected students’ success and well-being.

The MVC lounge is a place where students and groups can get together, like UIW’s Student Veterans of America (SVA) chapter, an incredibly active and strong student organization, which continually advocates for student veterans on campus. The MVC allows the organization a space to bring new ideas to the surface, like the group’s work to bring free parking for disabled and decorated veterans to campus.

The lounge also serves as a focal point for MVC’s Peer Advisor for Veteran Education (PAVE) program, a peer support program that connects incoming student veterans with current student veterans who are trained as peer advisors and help them navigate college life, address challenges they may face and refer them to appropriate resources on and off campus. UIW expanded the PAVE program in 2023 to include military dependents so they too can benefit from the program.

Military studentsWhile military-affiliated students connect in the MVC lounge, staff members remain hard at work to fulfill the Center’s core function of processing student Veterans Administration (VA) and Tuition Assistance (TA) education benefits. Since 2011, the MVC has been processing VA Yellow Ribbon education benefits in an agreement with the VA to fund tuition and fee costs that exceed the yearly national cap on those who utilize CH 33 Post 9-11 GI Bill®. This amazing program makes it possible for those who are utilizing the CH 33 Post 9-11 GI Bill® to attend any VA-approved program at UIW without the concern of costs or hitting their annual cap. Unlike many other institutions, UIW has no limit on the number of students they allow into the Yellow Ribbon Program. While some schools may only allow 10 students per academic year into their Yellow Ribbon Program, UIW accepts 100% of the applicants that apply and meet all qualifications.

The MVC also makes a concerted effort every day to make sure veterans and their families feel welcomed and supported once they are enrolled. Approximately 22% of today’s UIW students are military-connected. To better support these students, in 2018, a Military 101 training course was created by military-connected UIW faculty and staff members to educate employees on military specific issues and culture. The course material was updated in 2022 by Dr. Randall Griffiths and is provided to all faculty and staff to ensure they are equipped to support military-connected students. Employees who complete the training are given a sticker for their office door so that military students can easily find support.

Another of the MVC’s main goals is to consistently stay connected to our military-affiliated community. UIW MVC does this by providing face-to-face appointments, a virtual front counter, and online appointments for the convenience of military students. MVC also provides a virtual option for military and veteran student orientation and regularly provides an online option for social events such as SVA meetings, motivational speaker series and prayer services.

In 2023, the MVC took their efforts a step further when it launched a veteran peer support group to assist veterans with the transition into higher education.

Because MVC staff members understand that the transition to civilian life and the higher education experience is different for veterans and military members, the MVC also offers a new student orientation that reviews how to utilize TA and VA Educational Benefits and introduces students to campus resources. The orientation also provides an opportunity for Q&A, student mingling, free food and giveaways.

To connect students to outside resources, the MVC hosts a VA social worker on campus on a bi-weekly basis as part of the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) Program. The VA social worker is also available to schedule online appointments. During these appointments, students receive assistance on enrollment into Veteran Health Administration (VHA) healthcare, benefit from brief counseling services, and receive help navigating all VA, community, and on-campus resources.

"UIW continues to develop a culture and environment that embraces the interests and needs of military-affiliated students."

A specific 2023-2024 strategic initiative is to improve transcript articulation and applicability of military credits. As part of the Texas Workforce Commission College Credit for Heroes (TWC CCH) Capacity Building and Sustainability Program, UIW received a $200,000 grant that will help to develop a fully integrated system to evaluate military transcripts and turn essential military training and experience into academic credit at UIW. The College Credit for Heroes grant manager, Alfred Van Raub, focuses on expediting the evaluation of military transfer credits, promoting consistency in the award of credits, maximizing the number of military transfer credits, facilitating degree completion and validating the integrity of military training.

UIW also honors and recognizes military family members and the challenges they face. In April 2023, the University community celebrated the Month of the Military Child to recognize and support military families. UIW promoted the Purple Up Month and celebrated with events throughout the month of April by printing Purple Up shirts, promoting a Purple Up social media campaign, and turning the Student Engagement Center purple. UIW held Veterans Day parades on Broadway campus in 2020 and 2021, which recognized veteran groups throughout the San Antonio community. UIW has sponsored Our Community Salutes San Antonio, which honors and recognizes high school graduates entering the military, since it was established in 2012. In addition, UIW Athletics annually honors the military with Military Appreciation athletic events and games. In 2022, UIW’s military appreciation football game incorporated six high school JROTC units and had an enlistment ceremony that honored over 100 enlistees from all branches of service.

To better connect UIW’s many locations in San Antonio, in 2021, the University received a veteran microgrant to support veteran library resources and services. UIW purchased a mobile display case that moves between schools and has rotating military tribute displays that honor veterans. To assist service members, UIW officially joined the DoD Skill Bridge program in 2022, allowing transitioning service members the opportunity to participate in higher education internship programs while transitioning out of their military careers.

In 2022, UIW hosted two military focused art events titled Kevlar to Canvas, which featured 32 military-connected student artists who participated in 3-hour guided art sessions. The events were open to all military-affiliated members of the UIW community and provided a fun, relaxing and peaceful environment. In 2023 and 2024, MVC hosted a similar event called Kevlar to Clay, this time providing ceramic art guided sessions. The MVC team also actively participates in Joint Base San Antonio’s (JBSA) weekly Workforce and Transition Alliance meeting to keep our student veterans connected to the community.

In gratitude, UIW rewards its military and student veterans for their hard work at graduation with a veteran graduation reception, free veteran tribute graduation stole and military challenge coin.

As part of our legacy of service to the community, the MVC staff and the entire University community will continue to honor its commitment to providing top tiers ervice to those who have served us.

Timeline: UIW's Military and Veteran Center

Forward with Purpose

August 2017

SEC opens with inaugural student Veteran Lounge

March 2018

Thomas M. Evans, PhD Inauguration

June 2018

Military and Veteran office consolidation

July 2018

Military 101

June 2019

Disabled & Decorated Veterans Free Parking

November  2019

Veteran Spiritual Retreat

December 2019

VA Social Worker bi-weekly on campus

March 2020

Military Student Attributes & data quality initiative

April 2020

Virtual Counter

May 2020

Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) Grant

November 2020

Renamed Center of Veterans Affairs to Military & Veteran Center (MVC)

Spring 2021

Veterans & ROTC Priority Registration

November 2021

Military Appreciation Football Game

August 2022

Military 101 updated

Dr. Randall Griffiths

September 2022

First Kevlar to Canvas event

May 2023

SOM Commissioning dinner

August 2023

Awarded College Credit for Heroes Grant by Texas Workforce Commission

November 2023

UIW announced as #1 on the Best for Vets: Colleges List issued by Military Times

Spring 2024

Veterans Scholarship