The University of Akron's efforts on behalf of returning military veterans seeking college educations have earned a Military Friendly School designation for the third consecutive year from G.I. Jobs magazine.
The designation, which puts UA in the top 20 percent of all colleges and universities, is in addition to its ranking as a Servicemembers Opportunity College. Wayne College, UA's branch campus in Orrville, also received the designation.
"The Military Friendly Schools list is the go-to resource for prospective student veterans searching for schools that provide the right overall experience," says Michael Dakduk, executive director for the Student Veterans of America. "Nothing is more compelling than actual feedback from current student veterans."
The University has taken a multifaceted approach to surround student-veterans with the resources and support they need to be successful.
Alex Payne knows firsthand just how important all these services can be.
"I came home in December 2009 after seven years in the Army, and started classes in January 2010," says Payne, a combat engineer who spent 3½ of those years deployed in Iraq. "I applied to the University while I was still on my last tour in Iraq. Even though I was not physically here, the staff in the Military Services Center was still able to make the process of applying for my benefits and getting everything in place seamless for me."
Unlike many returning veterans, who are uncertain about what their next steps will be, Payne had his career path clearly laid out. He chose UA because of its engineering programs, and after earning a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology, he hopes to work in robotics.
In the meantime, the Painesville, Ohio, native is now working in the Military Services Center to help other veterans like him. Payne also is active in the Military Veterans Association on campus and serves on UA's Veterans Steering Committee, which is composed of individuals from across campus who are working to ensure that enrolled student-veterans have easy access to the services they need to succeed.
"It can be confusing, coming from the very regimented life you have in the military and trying to transition back to civilian life and then becoming a college student," says Payne. "You're changing your entire life and you have no idea if it's going to work or not.
"I understand those feelings and I like being able to help other student-veterans in the way I was helped so that my transition went smoothly," adds Payne.