Special to the Register
In sports, it might be called a dynasty in the making.
Eastern Kentucky University, home to more than 1,200 veterans and their dependents, has earned its second No. 1 national ranking from Military Times EDGE magazine in its annual “Best for Vets: Colleges” issue.
The magazine rates four-year colleges and universities on their commitment to helping military veterans further their education.
The win follows a No. 1 ranking two years ago and a No. 2 ranking last year from the magazine, which considers institutions’ programs, services and policies that support veterans as well as their accreditations. The complete story and rankings can be viewed at militarytimes.com.
The news prompted Lt. Col. Allen Back (USAR), director of EKU’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs, to recall the words of an American literary giant.
“As Mark Twain once stated, ‘History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but it does rhyme,’” Back said. “Achieving this number-one ranking for a second time in three years demonstrates EKU’s commitment to our nation’s veterans … and provides the recognition so richly deserved that EKU is sincere about veteran success.”
Pointing to a “long tradition at EKU that honors and values military service,” Back said Eastern “continues to be a school of choice among military and veteran students.”
Other national honors in recent years further validate the university’s reputation among veterans, EKU President Doug Whitlock said.
Eastern has been recognized by G.I. Jobs as a Military Friendly School each of the past four years and this year was named a Pat Tillman Military Scholar Partnership University, one of only 14 in the nation. Andrew Napier, an EKU senior from Richmond, was one of only 59 Tillman Military Scholars nationwide.
Also this year, EKU was named a VetSuccess University by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and now boasts a full-time employee on staff to help veterans with their benefits issues.
In 2010, Eastern launched Operation Veteran Success, a series of initiatives designed to make the university even more veteran-helpful. These initiatives include:
• No admission fees for undergraduate veterans
• In-state tuition for all out-of-state veterans nationwide
• Maximum credit hours for military experience
• Priority registration
• Book vouchers and Books for Boots Exchange Library
• Veterans Bridge to College Success cohort classes
• Veterans orientation course
• Veteran-helpful withdrawal and readmission policy
• Vet-2-Vet sponsorship program and active Vets Club
• Recreational and other extracurricular activities
• Specially designated housing for student veterans.
Veteran Studies minor, believed to be the nation’s first, to help those who haven’t served in the military to better understand the issues that veterans face, and to help the veterans themselves deal with those issues.
EKU also is home to The Journal of Military Experience, the first volume of which won one of 14 Phi Kappa Phi national literacy grants and “Program of the Year” honors from Student Veterans of America for providing EKU veterans with a voice in 2011. The second volume, published this year, provides the same service to veterans nationwide and includes the scholarship of researchers interested in bridging the gap between civilian and military cultures.
As more and more troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, EKU has more than doubled its number of military veterans and dependents in recent years. Many are pursuing baccalaureate degrees in criminal justice, police studies, homeland security, fire and safety, and nursing, or a graduate degree in safety, security and emergency management.
This fall, the EKU Military and Veterans Affairs Office moved to a new location, 317 Lancaster Ave., a converted home adjacent to Irvine-McDowell Park. Kim Dickey, a full-time campus-based VA employee, is also available to help veterans with their benefits issues. For more information about opportunities and services available to veterans and their dependents at EKU, visit va.eku.edu or call 622-2345.