MACOMB – Western Illinois University today received the 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 (IDVA) Director Dan Grant presented the award to WIU President Al Goldfarb during a ceremony at the Wright Residence Veterans Resource Center, 333 N. Ward St., Macomb, in recognition of the school’s implementation of the Higher Education Veterans Service Act. Governor Pat Quinn signed the legislation in August 2009 to expand resources and information for student veterans at Illinois’ colleges and universities.
“I applaud Western Illinois University for their outstanding efforts to provide student veterans with access to on-campus resources and benefits that will help them easily make the transition back to school,” said Governor Pat Quinn. “I strongly encourage other public schools in Illinois to keep working toward making their campuses as Veteran-friendly as WIU.”
Director Grant also surprised WIU officials by presenting a $75,000 Veterans Cash Grant check award. The WIU University Foundation and Development Office received the grant to provide additional academic, financial and social support systems to student veterans and military personnel who are likely to experience barriers associated with Post Traumatic Stress.
Since 2006, the Veterans Cash Grant has awarded more than $8.4 million to organizations supporting veterans statewide through the sale of the Veterans Cash scratch-off lottery ticket. All of the net proceeds from the sale of the ticket benefits non-profit and service organizations assisting veterans.
“WIU not only meets but far exceeds our expectations in offering student veterans the tools they need to successfully transition to the university environment,” Grant said. “On behalf of Governor Quinn, we are thrilled to recognize them and present this award, as well as provide funding for their ongoing efforts to assist student veterans and military personnel who might be suffering Post Traumatic Stress.”
WIU is the third public university statewide to receive the award. WIU has been recognized nationally as a “Military Friendly School” and offers student veterans a comprehensive campus Veterans Resource Center that provides information on programs, services, academic support and accessing benefits. The Wright Residence Veterans Resource Center was opened on Veterans Day 2009 providing services to about 750 veterans, reservists, guard members and active duty personnel on campus. A Veteran Service Officer from the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs also provides one-on-one benefits information and support for student veterans at the Macomb campus and WIU satellite campuses.
WIU also offers flexible and unique academic programs that benefit Veterans, including a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies (BGS) which serves adult students who are unable to attend a traditional college program due to other obligations, like military service.
“Prospective and returning students have used the center since its inception and the response has been overwhelming" said Kathy Meyers, assistant director of the Veterans Resource Center. "We are able to help minimize the barriers associated with transitioning to the University setting by providing necessary services and resources in a relaxed atmosphere. The center staff also assists students who are located at the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses, and throughout the world. The Veterans Resource Center connects veterans and their family members with the resources necessary to help them succeed.”
"Western has established a national reputation for providing exceptional academic support and services to active military personnel and veterans," said President Al Goldfarb. "We are most honored to receive the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Veterans Education. I would like to thank Gov. Quinn and Veterans Affairs Director Dan Grant for recognizing the University's efforts."
The legislation (Senate Bill 1624) passed in August 2009 and requires public colleges and universities in Illinois to create publish and distribute a comprehensive guide of services available to veterans at their institutions. It also requires schools with 1,000 or more full-time students to appoint a coordinator to act as a liaison between administrators and student veterans. About 60 schools with enrollment of 1,000 or more currently participate in the program.