ND campuses aim to do more for vetsFARGO — Starting college after spending five years in the Army was an adjustment for Josh Lueck.
By: Amy Dalrymple , The Dickinson Press
FARGO — Starting college after spending five years in the Army was an adjustment for Josh Lueck.
“I was really nervous coming back to school,” said Lueck, a North Dakota State University student. “I struggled right away.”
Lueck, now 26, said even though he did well in high school, launching his college career after being out of school for five years was intimidating. And he found he had little in common with his 18- and 19-year-old classmates.
“I think part of it was kind of feeling out of place,” said Lueck, a criminal justice major.
Meeting the needs of veteran students should be a priority for the state’s campuses, North Dakota University System Chancellor Bill Goetz announced this fall.
“It’s an initiative that I think is very important,” Goetz said. “I’m anxious to see that we’re able to move this along.”
Goetz is working with the North Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs to do more for that population, including seeking grant funding to increase academic and mental health counseling.
If the grant is approved, it would also benefit private colleges and tribal colleges in North Dakota, Goetz said.
NDSU is one of the campuses that already places a strong emphasis on serving veterans, Goetz said.
This fall, NDSU has nearly 450 students who are receiving military benefits, including 35 students who are dependents of
Kaarin Remmich, NDSU’s Veterans Affairs representative, expects that number to grow as more veterans return from Iraq and Afghanistan.
A common challenge the veterans face is adjusting to college life, Remmich said.
NDSU has made efforts to streamline services for veterans and make their transition to
college as seamless as possible, said Registrar Kristi Wold-McCormick.
That includes establishing a Veterans and Military Services office so students can apply for benefits and ask questions in one place.
Three work-study students who are veterans work in the office.
“That always helps because they connect with somebody and they feel comfortable right away,” Remmich said.
NDSU also had a veterans reintegration committee examine the needs of those students, ranging from disability services, mental health needs and academic issues.
Lueck, who will start next semester as a junior, helps other veterans resolve issues with faculty through his role as president of the Armed Forces Association student group.
For example, Lueck worked with a student who kept missing a class on Wednesdays because he had weekly counseling appointments for post-traumatic stress disorder that he couldn’t reschedule.
They were able to work with the professor to get lecture notes to the student for Wednesdays.
Randy Peterson, vice president of the student group, said faculty members are good about making accommodations for veterans if they have special circumstances.
But the challenging part is getting the word out to veterans that there are services available to help them, said Peterson, a 50-year-old Army veteran.
“The school has been awesome about helping veterans, but (we need) to get that advertising out there and let them know it’s there,” he said.
Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.