Brenau Celebrates Veterans Day with Campus Display
To commemorate Veterans Day, Brenau University honored its veterans and active service members with a special Gainesville historic campus display paying tribute to all 220 of its current students on all campuses with military ties.
Brenau staff planted red, white and blue pinwheels – all adorned with the names of students who are or have been members of the United States Armed Forces – around the flagpole outside the Owens Student Center.
The display will be up until Friday, Nov. 13. Throughout the week, banners honoring military personnel will also wave at each regional campus. As a token of appreciation, Brenau catering vendor Aramark provided free lunches to all active military and student veterans at the Gainesville historic campus on Wednesday while students with military backgrounds on other campuses received gift cards.
“We’re really focused on our veterans,” said Rosanne Short, director of Brenau’s Military and Veteran Services. “We don’t just want their tuition. We want them to have a positive experience and we want them to know we appreciate their service.”
The emphasis on active military and veteran students is hardly a new practice for Brenau, which has offered programs to active duty personnel, dependents and veterans at military installations for four decades. In addition to operating courses continuously at the U.S. Navy Trident Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia, since 1987, the institution in the past has also had programs at the Navy’s school for supply and logistics officers when it was based in Athens, Georgia, and at Fort Gordon, the U.S. Army post near Augusta. The Brenau campus in the Augusta area, now located in Martinez, Georgia, still caters to military personnel and veterans as does the university’s newest campus in Jacksonville, Florida. However, Short points out that full complement of active duty military and veterans now enrolled at Brenau is scattered across all campuses or is engaged in the university’s fast-growing online degree programs.
In many instances, former military personnel are finding themselves instructing fellow servicemen and servicewomen at Brenau. Such is the case for School of Occupational Therapy professor Dr. Mary Shotwell, who provided rehabilitative services to military personnel and their families in the mid-1980s at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and the William Beaumont Army Medical Center and Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
“In our program, which is a two and half to three year rigorous graduate program, it requires a high degree of self-direction, independence, discipline and the ability to do work in teams,” she said. “We find that military members and veterans have those skills through their training in the military, and therefore it is a good fit with our student population.”
In U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 “Best Schools for Veterans” survey, Brenau ranked 12th in the Southeast among comprehensive universities. Publishers of the 2016 Military Advanced Education & Transition Guide to Colleges and Universities recently notified Brenau that the university will be listed among its “Top School” designees in the scheduled December 2015 publication.
Brenau men and women who are in or have been in the U.S. military represent about 8 percent of the university’s total student population. Tuition is significantly reduced for active personnel and their families, while veterans receive a 10 percent discount on all their classes, online or on campus.
Brenau’s veteran student services will expand in early 2016, when the university begins a new work-study program in January with help from U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs funding. Under the partnership, the university will hire a veteran student to help produce an online service that will enable veterans in the student body to video chat, post documents and connect to peer support resources online.
Short said that, based on her experience as an instructor in Brenau academic programs, the veterans in the student population seem to display an extra burst of dedication when it comes to their studies.
“I once had an active duty military student in Afghanistan under a tank with his smartphone, saying ‘I’m stuck somewhere. I’ve got time to work on my class but I can’t get into [the university computer network]. Can you help me?’” she said. “If you get in with a group with a veteran, you better believe things are going to get done on time.”
Brenau Registrar Barbara Wilson knows how tough it can be when a loved one is in the military. Her husband, a behavioral health officer with the 48th Infantry Brigade, returned from Afghanistan last year.
“People don’t understand how angst-producing it is to have someone overseas,” Wilson said. “I handle the military affidavits with the students, and I always send a ‘thank you for your service’ note to them.”
Academic Advising Manager Justin Davis said the pinwheels on the student center lawn may be a small gesture, but the message they send to veterans and active military members is huge. “It shows that we truly support our veteran students,” he said. “I think that’s the most important aspect of the [pinwheels], it makes that message visible.”