Resources Help Smooth Transition for Veterans
New GI Bill Swells Ranks of Former Soldiers Earning Degrees at UT Dallas
Nov. 11, 2009
Thanks in large part to the New GI Bill, military veterans are enrolling at The University of Texas at Dallas in unprecedented numbers.
Record numbers of service men and women are taking advantage of the generous new benefits, which include four academic years of full tuition, living stipends, expanded eligibility periods and the elimination of enrollment fees.
In the three months that the new financial aid policy has been in effect, UT Dallas’ population of veterans has climbed from about 180 to 250, an increase of some twenty-eight percent.
That kind of turnout brings the administrative headache of having record quantities of paperwork that need to be processed.
Even so, Veterans Affairs Coordinator and Navy veteran Boyd “Buddy” Sherbet relishes the challenge.
“The rewards of helping veterans attain their educational goals far outweigh the additional labor involved in processing veteran education claims,” he said.
Despite Sherbet’s support, some of the soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and coast guardsmen on campus who are used to living in an extremely disciplined military environment might face a bit of culture shock when they suddenly find themselves in the midst of a less-regimented academic life.
“It is an understatement to say that the transition to civilian life after 21 years of military service is challenging,” said Stephanie Abramoske-James, a graduate student pursuing a PhD in the criminology program at UT Dallas who served as an investigator in the Army and attained the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
“It is hard to describe the unique adaptation that career service people encounter after being in a highly mission-oriented, structured, disciplined and camaraderie-promoting environment for such an extended period of time,” said Abramoske-James.
Abramoske-James is not alone in her experience. Sharon Bowles, LCSW, a senior staff member at the UT Dallas Counseling Center, is becoming well-acquainted with the unique challenges that are faced by veterans.
“Veterans’ issues have come on our radar recently,” said Bowles. “We’ve taken an interest in them, and I’ve attended some seminars that deal specifically with veterans’ issues.”
According to Bowles, challenges that veterans might face include family reintegration, post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness, insomnia, depression, re-establishing support systems they might have had in the military, and a lack of coping skills to deal with the challenges inherent in a less-structured environment.
Veterans who are enrolled at UT Dallas have access to the full range of counseling services offered at the Counseling Center. “We want to stay in touch with the veterans on campus and stay abreast of what’s going on so we can consider additional services that we might be able to offer them,” she said.
Student-veterans at UT Dallas soon may have some additional resources available to them.
“A number of veteran students have expressed a strong desire to establish a veteran’s student organization on campus,” said Sherbet. “One of their major goals in starting this group is to provide a resource for new students transitioning from the military to educational life.”
Veterans at UT Dallas can expect to be contacted by Sherbet once the ball gets rolling on the new student group. In the meantime, a wide variety of resources are already in place on campus that can help veterans make that transition.
“The process of returning to the civilian sector was made easier with the support of Buddy Sherbet,” said Abramoske-James. She has also found plenty of support with the faculty, staff and students in the Criminology and Public Policy and Political Economy (PPPE) Departments in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences where she is pursuing her doctorate. “I unequivocally assert that UTD is a military-friendly school,” she said.
|Boyd “Buddy” Sherbet (above) is in charge of helping veterans attending UT Dallas students like Stephanie Abramoske-James (right), a graduate student pursuing a PhD in criminology.|