Honoring Ashford’s Military Students
This month, our nation observed Veterans Day. The holiday is a poignant reminder to honor the service of all the men and women who have worn the uniform for our country. I am proud to be a veteran myself, and I have an opportunity to interact with many other veterans and active-duty service members on a daily basis here at Ashford University. Many of our staff and faculty members have served our country, as have a large percentage of our students. In fact, about 28% of our students are veterans, active-duty, or members of military families.
But how do we honor our military students? I believe we can best honor our students by serving them effectively and with integrity. Our actions are important. Let me give you some examples. Ashford provides a grant for all active-duty, veteran, and military family members. We also provide them with a book benefit as part of that grant. Ashford’s Admissions, Advising, and Access and Wellness units have specialists dedicated specifically to the unique needs of military students. I am particularly pleased with how sensitive we are to transitioning military. Whether they are coming out of a hostile environment, entering civilian life following many years in the military, or simply returning to school after a long layoff, our military students often need special attention. We are pleased to be able to provide that and do it well. In fact, our specialized staff regularly presents to peers in the higher education community about how to work effectively with military veterans who have sustained traumatic brain injuries, or are coping with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ashford provides specialized services because we realize it’s not easy to go to school while serving our country. People are deployed and move around. They can end up in dangerous situations and isolated locations. No matter where in the world our students find themselves, we want them to be able to continue pursuing their education. As I recently found out when I had a chance to go out on the USS Albuquerque submarine, Ashford students are even finding a way to study when they are submerged 600 feet below sea level! Wow! If, however, deployment makes it impossible for a student to continue in a program, Ashford’s leave policy is flexible enough to accommodate those situations, too.
We have made a concerted effort to make Ashford a military-friendly institution. And the good news is that we are being recognized for that effort. Over the years, several military publications have cited Ashford for our work to make higher education accessible to military students. Earlier this month, in fact, Ashford earned a spot on Military Times’ Best for Vets list of the top institutions for military and veteran students as well as being named to the list of Military Friendly® Schools by Victory Media.
I truly believe that Ashford is a better school because of our large military contingent. Military students tend to be disciplined, they take their studies seriously, and their presence elevates our classrooms. They are role models for others, and they are great alums who want to stay in touch with Ashford. We are lucky to be associated with so many military and military family members.
Accordingly, every Ashford commencement spotlights the service members, past and present who are part of the Ashford community. We host a military reception with full color guard for our military graduates before the commencement ceremony. During the ceremony, we also ask all the active-duty military and veterans present to rise and be recognized. It is always one of the most moving moments of every commencement.
It’s important to recognize our military and honor their service – not just at commencement, and not just on Veterans Day. The best way for all of us at Ashford to do that is to continue providing our military men and women the support and attention that they need every day.
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Dr. Richard L. Pattenaude is the President and CEO of Ashford University.