Baylor EMBA supports VETS programMarch 16, 2018
Every student brings a wealth of different life experiences to bear on their time at Baylor University—none more so than military veterans. Their global perspectives, leadership skills, and hearts for service that first caused them to join the military go hand in hand with Baylor’s mission statement. With that history of service comes a host of unique needs, which is why Baylor created the VETS (Veteran Educational and Transition Services) Program to help bridge the gap between the traditional and post-traditional student experience. Kevin Davis, a Marine Corps veteran and the VETS Program Manager since 2016, is based at the Waco campus, but serves EMBA students at the Dallas and Austin satellites as well. As he describes it, his primary role is to “take all the wonderful support services we have on offer for our traditional students, and tweak those to strategically support our vets.”
One of the biggest challenges facing student veterans, says Davis, is the change of structure. “Veterans go from this highly-structured environment where they’re making high-impact decisions (where mission success, and sometimes even lives, are on the line), to a campus environment where your time isn’t structured for you and the decisions you’re making seem lower impact, even if there are more of them to make.” Realizing that such students might need help learning to organize their time, allotting sufficient blocks for class and work and family, inspired the original program founder, Dr. Janet Bagby, to create a faculty/staff mentorship program. Among their ranks are several ‘veteran ambassadors’—volunteer faculty and staff who reach out to student veterans to make sure their needs are being met.
In turn, student veterans can thank those who have helped them along their educational journeys via a public coin recognition ceremony. Robert Davis (EMBA 2018 and a veteran of the Navy) explains how in the military, challenge coins are presented to “people who have gone above and beyond in their work.” Baylor student veterans receive similar coins “to give to someone that we think strongly represents what Baylor stands for and who has helped us through different problems.” Robert recently gave his coin to Erin Basden, one of the Dallas EMBA directors, for “shouldering some of the burden as a full-time dad, full-time husband, and full-time student. … She’s a friend and a mentor,” he continues, “and I wanted to show her and the other directors how much I appreciate them.”
That gratitude goes both ways. Andrea Gonzales (EMBA 2019 and a veteran of the Air Force) adds: “It’s admirable how Baylor goes out of their way to thank student vets for their service.” She received a $1200 scholarship, renewable for each of her remaining semesters, “for being a veteran,” she says, “which is pretty significant.” The school also honored Andrea when she first joined the program. “I received a Baylor Veterans T-shirt, everyone thanked me for my service, and there was immediate camaraderie with my classmates.” The support and teamwork she has continued to experience at Baylor Andrea calls “extremely valuable and pertinent to getting to the finish line.”