CARBONDALE – Southern Illinois University Carbondale today was awarded the state’s inaugural Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veterans Education for exemplary efforts in providing greater educational and informational resources for student veterans.
Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Dan Grant presented SIUC Chancellor Samuel Goldman with the plaque during a morning award ceremony at the SIUC Student Health Center, 374 E. Grand Ave., in recognition of the school’s implementation of the Higher Education Veterans Service Act, which Governor Pat Quinn signed into law in August 2009 to expand resources and information for student veterans.
“It is necessary that we take care of these fine men and women who have served our country proudly, and ensure they are aware of the resources and benefits that are available to them to further their education,” said Governor Pat Quinn, who was in Springfield for the Legislative session and unable to attend the ceremony.
“SIUC richly deserves this award for its outstanding interpretation and implementation of this legislation. I strongly encourage other public schools in Illinois to keep working toward making their campuses as veteran-friendly as SIUC,” Governor Quinn said.
Grant highlighted Governor Quinn’s strong support of the veterans’ higher education bill, and his longstanding support for veteran’s issues.
“On behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, we are thrilled to present the first Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veterans Education to Southern Illinois University Carbondale,” Grant said. “SIUC has shown exemplary leadership in creating a Student Veterans Center that provides the resources and outreach that we envisioned when this legislation was passed.”
Since last fall, SIUC has opened a Student Veterans Center on campus, appointed a full-time Student Veteran Coordinator and created a website dedicated to providing a central location for resources available for student veterans.
SIUC Chancellor Samuel Goldman said the recognition is a reflection of the ongoing commitment to veterans shared by many across campus.
“We appreciate being the first recipient of this award from Governor Quinn and Director Grant. It is truly a university-wide honor because so many people work hard every day ensuring that our student veterans receive the help they need both in and out of the classroom,” Goldman said. “Our veterans and their families have made many sacrifices for all of us, and one of the ways we can show our appreciation is by helping them achieve their educational goals.”
The legislation (Senate Bill 1624) requires public colleges and universities in Illinois to create, publish and distribute a comprehensive guide of services available to veterans at their institutions, and requires schools with 1,000 or more full-time students to appoint a coordinator to act as a liaison between administrators and student veterans, among other provisions. About 60 schools with an enrollment of 1,000 or more currently participate in the program.
Christopher Piha, an Iraq War veteran, SIUC senior, and Student Veteran Center coordinator, said the center provides a smooth transition from military life to student life for student veterans, many of whom are “non-traditional” undergraduates.
Piha said the Higher Education Bill “really gives students the tools they need to transition to the University.”
Grant said he hoped the success of SIUC’s Student Veterans Center would spur other public colleges and universities in Illinois to move toward implementing the same resources for veterans at their schools.
“SIUC had already implemented many of the provisions even before the bill was passed, and has continued its highly effective and innovative approach to providing resources to veterans on campus,” Grant said. “Many public, as well as private, universities have already gone above and beyond to serve veteran populations, and we hope this award will further encourage best practices for student veterans throughout our state,” Grant said.
Grant said the state plans to present another Governor’s Award for Excellence in Higher Education to a public college or university in the fall.