Veterans' Sanctuary Programs Help Vets Succeed
Fall 2009 Issue | By Casey Santee
Bryan Byrd is living proof that when a university provides veterans with first class-service and a strong system of support, they flourish.
Byrd, a Navy veteran from Pocatello who was discharged from active duty in 2003, is the first member of ISU’s new Veterans’ Sanctuary program. He originally wanted to attend college at ISU in 2007, but getting started was more difficult than he had anticipated, so he decided to postpone his plans.
What a difference two years and meeting the right person can make.
Byrd returned to ISU early this summer and met Lynn Roberts, a university business officer spearheading the effort for the Veterans’ Sanctuary. She helped him enroll in classes and took the time to show him around campus. Roberts introduced him to the people he needed to know to make his college experience a success.
“Lynn made it a push-button deal and I said, ‘Wow! If it’s that easy, let’s do it,”’ Byrd said. “Any time I’d hit a door, she’d open it.”
In the Navy, Byrd worked as an analyst and as an aircraft logs and records clerk. He plans to study business management at ISU.
“Utilizing a ‘single point of contact’ approach, (the Sanctuary) will address the immediate needs as identified by veteran’s groups across the country,” Turner said. Their orientation and support on campus begins on Day One and finishes at graduation.”
The Sanctuary includes a team of dedicated representatives, some of whom are veterans themselves, to help with the transition from military to campus life. The team assists with GI Bill educational benefits and facilitates contacts within ISU’s various departments and programs as well as in the Pocatello community.
The program will feature cohort general education classes for veterans taught by faculty members who are veterans. There will be cohort housing on campus for unmarried veterans and an Armed Forces Veterans Club, already established at the Idaho Falls campus, which is starting a new chapter in Pocatello this fall.
In addition, the Sanctuary will partner with local businesses to provide scholarships to veterans who exhaust their benefits before obtaining degrees.
The program is the result of nearly a year of planning on the part of Roberts and Scott Turner, also a university business officer. The Sanctuary also opened on the heels of news that ISU was named a "Military Friendly" school in 2009 by G.I. Jobs magazine.
Program Director Casey Santee said the university will begin targeting recruiting efforts to veterans nationwide. ISU will benefit through increased enrollment and diversity, he said. Currently, there are more than 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans eligible for the new Post 9-11 GI Bill. The bill provides increased benefits for tuition and fees, housing, books and tutoring.
Roberts said her vision for the Sanctuary is to create a community of veterans on campus who could support one another while receiving top-notch service from the university.
“We owe so much to veterans,” Roberts said. “It’s time to give back.”