Lipscomb University became the first private university in Middle Tennessee to be designated a VETS Campus by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) in a special ceremony on March 24.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry; Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry; Tom Morrison, assistant executive director of veterans education, THEC; Col. David Dellinger, chief of staff, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); and State Senator Mark Norris were on-hand to officially present the university its VETS Campus certification in recognition of the school’s services and resources to student veterans. Lipscomb veteran services officials, students, faculty and administrators along with a number of government and higher education representatives and community members were on hand to celebrate this honor.
“About eight years ago we had an opportunity to think about what we might do for men and women who are finishing service to our country and what we might do as a university in welcoming them here and then being part of their journey as they prepared for their future,” said Lowry. “Being designated a VETS Campus is a validation that the program that we have built and are continuing to grow is making a difference in the lives of our veterans.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act establishes a program of recognition for higher education institutions which allocate resources for veterans’ successful transition from military service to college enrollment.
“I want to congratulate everyone at Lipscomb on the university’s designation as a VETS campus,” said Haslam in a videotaped statement. “The designation is not earned easily. Campuses must demonstrate that they can identify needs and provide services and support necessary to assist our student veterans. This is a way to say thank you to our veterans and that we recognize that they may have distinct challenges in making the transition to college. It also signifies more of our adults getting post-secondary degrees as part of our Drive to 55. So, a VETS campus is a win-win for our state.”
“Lipscomb is helping us in several ways,” he continued. “It has a dedicated resource center, a veterans tutoring program, faculty and staff training, and a streamlined enrollment process for veterans. Last October, Lipscomb received its second veterans reconnect grant from THEC. The grant is helping in recruiting students, assisting in transition and increased engagement with Lipscomb’s veteran alumni.”
Currently, Lipscomb serves more than 300 students who have previously served or are currently serving in the armed forces. The VETS Campus designation is part of the Tennessee Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Act of 2014. Campuses that meet the requirements must prioritize outreach to veterans and create an environment in which veteran students have the resources to thrive. Specific requirements include annual surveys of veteran students, targeted orientation programs, and mentoring and support services developed specifically for students who are veterans. THEC administers the VETS Campus program and provides the designation to campuses that meet the requirements specified by the VETS Act.
In fall 2009, Lipscomb launched its veteran services program. For veterans who qualify for 100 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits Lipscomb University has committed to allocate the necessary funds to allow them to earn an undergraduate degree through the Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program. The university also offers qualifying student veterans a variety of graduate degree options.
Barry began her remarks by recognizing the veterans in the audience.
“Thank you for what you do. I know that the service component you signed up for when you do this is pretty impactful to you and to your family,” said Barry, whose father served in the Marines. “In that service that you all have done, I’m reminded of a scripture in John that says, ‘greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.’ What you all sign up to do is give up your life for a stranger and that’s pretty amazing.”
She noted there are individuals and organizations at the state level who work to make sure veterans have access to educational opportunities.
“We also have institutions, like Lipscomb, that step up to create these places,” said Barry. “Lipscomb talks to veterans about their needs, they make sure they have faculty and staff that understand the challenges that veterans face when they come back. You have strong orientation and mentoring programs for veterans and you make sure veterans have credit for the training and experiences they already have – what a gift.”
Dellinger said that Lipscomb is “doing exactly what is necessary to help in this transition, especially in the education track.”
“And in that investment, you have assembled a team of veteran staff and counselors that have credibility and are backed by the leadership of this university, and you are helping with the explanation to the veteran students and the staff and faculty,” he said. “These counselors are providing translation for the veterans transition into education.”
Mark Norris, Tennessee state senate majority leader, is author of the Tennessee VETS Act. He said that Lipscomb is the third private university in the state and the first in Middle Tennessee to achieve this designation.
“A VETS campus is recognized as a special place, a place readily identifiable by veterans not only for in-state tuition and other benefits, but for priority placement. A place that appreciates veteran experience and accommodates veteran’s skills; a welcoming place for a warrior,” he said.
“Lipscomb is well-known as a place of academic rigor and spiritual growth, but it’s also known, as I’ve said before, as one of the top military friendly universities in the united states, and today, I’m proud to participate as it adds to that distinction as Tennessee’s 19th VETS campus. More importantly, perhaps, Lipscomb adds to its distinction as an important place…along a hard-earned pathway to prosperity for our veterans.”
Lipscomb University’s program has been recognized nationally for its quality and service to veterans. Last fall, Lipscomb was named among the top universities in the nation for serving student veterans by the Military Times in its Best for Vets: Colleges 2017 ranking. The university was ranked No. 12 in the country on that list.
Military Advanced Education also awarded Lipscomb the designation of a Top Military-Friendly University in its 2015 Guide to Military-Friendly Colleges & Universities. Last year marked the sixth consecutive year that Lipscomb University was designated a Military-Friendly School by “GI Jobs,” a publication of Victory Media, for its veteran services program. In 2014, U.S. News also ranked Lipscomb as the second-best regional university in the South for veterans. The College of Business was ranked 24th in the nation in the Military Times’ 2013 Best for Vets: Business Schools Guide for veterans based on financial aid, academic policies and participation in the Yellow Ribbon Program.
Last year the program was awarded a $185,563 grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s 2016 Veteran Reconnect grant program. Lipscomb University was only one of six universities in the state to receive the honor along with Chattanooga State Community College, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University, Tusculum College and the University of Tennessee-Martin.
In addition, a $25,000 Veterans Resource Center opened last November, funded in part by the Sentinels of Freedom organization, and includes areas for veterans to study and fellowship, a computer, television, kitchen/eating area, lockers and a place to relax in between classes.
For more information about Lipscomb University’s veteran services program, call 615.966.1013 or visit www.veterans.lipscomb.edu.
—Photos by Kristi Jones; Also contributing to the story was Lacey Klotz.