NLU's E2 Veterans Initiative Launches
By Kaitlin Weiss
From the NLU Alumni Magazine
Twenty years ago, Stephen Curda, Ph.D., left active military service to pursue his college degree. Fast-forward to 2012: after an 14-month tour of duty in Afghanistan as a Reservist recalled to active duty and served as primary staff on the US Forces-Afghanistan, now-Brigadier General Curda is making a familiar transition back to higher education — but with a new purpose in mind. His goal now is to advise and support NLU’s new veterans initiative as the Senior Advisor to the President for Military Education.
“It was tough,” Curda said of his original transition from service to studies. “From that experience, as well as my current military experience, I think NLU’s veterans initiative is going to be very helpful.”
On January 23, 2012, National Louis University announced the Education to Employment (E2) Initiative, made possible by a generous grant from the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. Beginning in fall 2012 and running through 2014, the initiative will help the University target students who are traditionally underserved and provide education and employment opportunities both before and after graduation. The program will assist active duty and veteran students as well as Harrison Fellowship students, with the aim of increasing the percentage of students within at-risk groups at NLU.
Specifically for active duty and veteran populations, the E2 initiative will provide a comprehensive online support system to those looking to understand the variety of resources available to student veterans.
John Dill, Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Sciences ’03 and Director of Armed Services Relations, understands the difficulties that service personnel face when looking to move into higher education. As a veteran, having used the GI Bill tuition assistance to earn his degree from NLU, he said that he “was in same boat as student veterans” at NLU.
“I understand the pitfalls and successes that student veterans face,” Dill said. “I am here to help them in their programs from start to finish. Whatever a veteran’s plan of action is to achieve their goals, I’m there to help.”
Paul Millbrandt, Bachelor of Science in Management candidate and president of the newly formed Student Veterans Association (video above), said NLU’s online veterans portal will provide critical resources to ease the transition to higher education.
“This is a great information tool for student veterans to raise awareness and to be educated about vets’ issues,” said Millbrandt, a former Illinois Army National Guardsman. “It will outline opportunities and employment, answer questions, give students benefits, and help them to be put in contact with the right people at the right time.”
As a Yellow Ribbon School, NLU’s active duty and veteran students receive tuition assistance through the Department of Veterans Affairs Yellow Ribbon Program for any costs exceeding the post-9/11 GI Bill. NLU also offers a 10-percent tuition discount to military students.
NLU has always been a military-helpful school, Dill said. The goal now is to become a military-friendly institution. The University is adding an employee services analyst to assist in obtaining work-study, internships, part-time and full-time work for veterans. Financial aid counselors will assist with the student finance process, and the University is expanding online class offerings for active duty soldiers and those based outside of Chicagoland. The University has opened a Veterans Lounge, dedicated on Veterans Day 2012 (right) at the Chicago campus to create space for active duty and veteran students to connect and network.
In January 2012, a task force of alumni and faculty with military connections was formed to advise the University. John Bergholz, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, worked extensively with the task force to provide initial direction for the initiative.
“I think these alumni and faculty exemplify a lot of terrific qualities,” Bergholz said. “These are people who have represented their university and their country well. They served their country and have stepped up to serve and give back to NLU with honest feedback, great advice and generosity with their time."
As for his part, Curda is heading NLU’s new Veterans Advisory Board, forming a national team to advise and lead NLU’s veterans efforts.
“By combining efforts both from individuals and groups, we can make a bigger impact,” Curda says. “What we are trying to do is to provide an opportunity.”
Access the full Fall 2012 NLU Alumni Magazine.