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January 25, 2013
The Veteran Educational and Transitional Services (VETS) Center opened in fall 2012 with the mission to support the academic success of student veterans at Baylor, serve as a resource to veterans and ease their transitions to student life at the University.
"With 70 veterans currently enrolled, Baylor is an ideal campus for veterans because it is an inherently nurturing environment," said Janet Bagby, senior lecturer in educational psychology and coordinator of the VETS Center. "By developing a veteran-friendly campus, we are showing them that Baylor cares and wants to see them succeed."
The Baylor VETS Center model was developed from research Bagby conducted regarding student-veterans across the country. Bagby, also the mother of an active-duty Marine, realized that student-veterans needed more support in navigating college life and their professors needed help in understanding the student veterans in their classes. She seized the opportunity to take action at Baylor and gained the support of the Paul L. Foster Success Center and the ROTC programs at the University.
"Extending the services of the Paul L. Foster Success Center into support specifically tailored to student veterans is something that we felt compelled to be a part of," said Sinda Vanderpool, assistant vice provost for academic enrollment management. "The Baylor community has always been sympathetic to the needs of student veterans. Setting up the VETS Center is a first step toward providing tangible evidence of the commitment to help them transition well to Baylor."
Adjusting to college life can be difficult, Bagby explained. Not only are Veterans transitioning from the highly structured environment of the military to the completely unstructured life of college, but veterans are typically older than their classmates, may be dealing with learning challenges and have experienced a side of life that most college students have only read about.
"College is very different than the military," said Rachael Harrelson, a Navy veteran, a senior communication sciences and disorders major and president of the Veterans of Baylor student organization. "As a student, you alone are accountable for everything. Twelve years out of high school, I really had to retrain myself on how to study. And as a wife and mother, I had to learn how to balance everything."
Bagby recruited LaNette Thompson, a doctoral student in educational psychology, as the Center's transitional coach to help student-veterans work through the challenges. "I knew Lanette was the perfect person for the Center before she knew," Bagby said.
"My experiences allow me to relate well to veterans and understand what they are dealing with," Thompson said. She is familiar with military life; she grew up with a father in the Air Force and has a son that is an Air Force captain. She also served 26 years as a missionary overseas, and has witnessed situations similar to what veterans have experienced.
As a transition coach, Thompson seeks to provide personalized service to each veteran to assist in easing their transitions and maximizing their successes at Baylor. Thompson may serve as a sounding board by listening to concerns, offering study advice, or informing and referring the veteran to the multitude of services offered on campus, including the counseling center, the Office of Career and Professional Development and the Office of Access and Learning Accommodations.
While the VETS Center is geared toward the academic support and success of veterans, the Veterans of Baylor student organization focuses on the community and social side of being a student-veteran. Chartered on Veterans Day in 2011, the organization holds events on national holidays, works with veterans and families of veterans in the local community and coordinates initiatives to give back to the active-duty military, such as care packages and blood drives.
"Veterans of Baylor continues the comraderie that veterans experience in the military," Harrelson said. "The retention rate for student-veterans is very low. If the veteran can't adapt right away, they give up. We want to help them out, keep the veterans attending Baylor, and let them know it gets easier."
Both the VETS Center and the Veterans of Baylor student organization, welcome faculty and staff veterans and students to participate in their programs, even if they've opted not to use the G.I. Bill.
The VETS Center is located in the Army ROTC Center, room 110.13, within the Speight Avenue Parking Garage. Office hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information email VETS@baylor.edu. Veterans of Baylor also meets in the Army ROTC Center on the second Thursday of each month at 5:15 p.m.